Over the past 10 years, golf pundits have pointed to Tiger Woods’ diminishing “aura of intimidation.”
The prevailing thought was that Woods created the generation of golfers he’s competing against, and in his image, they are immune to the pressures and pitfalls that have doomed previous generations of professionals.
This theory, of course, is flawed, and it’s easy to not be intimidated by a version of Woods who was struggling to hit simple chip shots and keep the ball on the property off the tee.
However, what we saw at Augusta National last month is proof that there is definitely some aura of intimidation surrounding Woods when he’s playing his best on the big stages.
Arguing that point earlier this week was Rory McIlroy on “The Rory & Carson Podcast.”
Co-host Carson Daly asked McIlroy about the decisive 12th hole on Sunday at The Masters when Woods hit the green safely as his playing partners, Francesco Molinari and Tony Finau rinsed their approaches into Rae’s Creek.
As Molinari and Finau played their third shots from short of the creek, Woods was up on the green preparing to hit his birdie putt. Daly asked if getting up to the green ahead of them was gamesmanship or an intimidation play.
“Just sorta having that little glimpse of red in your eye?” McIlroy asked with a laugh. “Oh, yeah. A hundred percent. I mean, he knows that he intimidates people and it’s like, ‘I’m going to make you feel my presence.’
“I think one of the things that helped this whole thing is that mock-neck turtle(neck) thing that he came back with, people correlate that with that ’05 Masters win. And it probably made him feel good.”
Woods turning back the clock with his game, his tactics and his major victory took many golf fans, including McIlroy, back to those early and defining moments in their golfing lives.
“I cried whenever he hugged Charlie, it was so emotional and I think a lot of people — I was sitting beside my wife Erica and I could see the tears going down,” McIlroy said. “I felt like I was a 10-year-old kid again watching Tiger win the Masters like he did, I felt like, every year that I watched it.”