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SPORTS DIGEST: Tiger Woods has masterful win at Augusta

Tiger Woods’ masterful performance at the Masters Golf Tournament was a win-win for everyone.

Of course, it was great for Woods, his first major tournament victory in 11 years and his first Masters win in 14 years. It was a win for the sport of golf, which for all the great young talent teeing it up every weekend still needs a superstar to get people buying tickets to the tournaments or turning on their television sets every Saturday and Sunday.

It was a win for those young pups — the Jason Days, Jordan Speiths, Dustin Johnsons, Ricky Fowlers and Francesco Molinaris — who never experienced what a golf course could be like when Tiger is on the prowl for a major tournament win.

It was captivating, compelling television. 

I have to admit, I didn’t think I would ever see it again.

As much as I admire Tiger Woods and have enjoyed watching him win 15 major tournaments and 66 other tournaments over the years, I thought his chances to win another major golf tournament had passed. After four back surgeries, I didn’t think Woods could put four days of golf together the way he used to when he was winning majors at a phenomenal pace.

Then I watched Woods work that old magic last weekend at Augusta National at the Masters, his favorite golf tournament. That was the old Tiger Woods. And it was great to see again.

I had my first inkling that Woods could win another major April 12. After shooting a two-under-par 70 in the opening round, Woods fired a four-under 68 April 12, but he missed four putts by an inch or less. Had the putter been working better, Woods would have led the tournament after two days. 

Woods followed his 68 Friday with a 67 that put him two shots behind Francesco Molinari heading into the final round.

The start of the final round was moved up several hours because the folks at Augusta National wanted to finish play before a major afternoon storm developed. The players also went out in threesomes instead of pairs, which meant Woods would be playing with Molinari and Tony Finau, instead of the next to last twosome, where Molinari would be playing behind him.

That worked in Woods’ favor, especially from the 12th hole on. Woods had an uneven front nine, shooting only four pars with three birdies and two bogies. He bogeyed the 10th hole to give Molinari a two-shot lead heading for home.

But in all fell apart for Molinari on the 12th when his tee shot found water. Woods reached the green with his tee shot, came up short on his birdie attempt but tied Molinari when he parred the hole and Molinari took a double bogey. And they were tied.

Patrick Cantlay moved ahead of the pair with an eagle at 15, but gave that back with a bogey at 16. Woods birdied 13, 14 and 16 and walked to the green with a two-shot lead. He three-putted for bogey, but it didn’t matter. 

He finished at 13 under par, a shot ahead of Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Xander Schauffele and two shots ahead of Day, Finau, Molinari and Webb Simpson.

Tiger roared. The crowd roared back. And then we saw a rare sight: Woods hugging his children after a major victory. It had never happened before. 

The emotion was gripping. This was good television. 

I would like to see it three more times.

COMEBACK FOR THE AGES: I was more interested in the Dodgers game April 15 than the second game of the Clippers-Warriors series. Clayton Kershaw was making his first start of the season, and Yasiel Puig was back in town. 

After giving up a first-inning home run to Puig, Kershaw settled down and dispatched the Reds in less than three hours, but the last time I had checked, the Clippers were getting blown out in Oakland so I didn’t bother to change the channel.

So I missed the Clippers staging the biggest comeback in NBA playoff history, recording a 135-131 victory after trailing 94-63 with 7:31 to play in the third quarter. Sorry, Clippers. I didn’t think you had that in you.

Over the last 19 minutes and 29 seconds of the game, the Clippers outscored the defending NBA champions 72-37. Granted, Steph Curry was in foul trouble for much of that period and the Warriors starting center DeMarcus Cousins left the game three minutes after it started with a torn quadricep muscle which will sideline him for most, if not all, of the playoffs.

Still, the Clippers’ comeback was amazing. They scored nine more points in the last 19 minutes of the game than they scored in the first 30 minutes.

The teams battle again in game three April 18 at Staples Center. You can bet Golden State won’t lose interest in the third quarter this time.

A QUICK EXIT: Luke Walton understands it’s better to be wanted somewhere than it is to coach where you aren’t wanted.

He knew Sacramento Kings management wanted him and that the Lakers didn’t. So he reached a deal with owner Jeanie Buss, the team announced that Walton had agreed to a parting of the ways and he was unemployed for one whole day before agreeing to a contract with the Kings, who had a better record than the Lakers this year and are poised to be better next year as well.

Like the Lakers, they have a solid nucleus of young players. Unlike the Lakers, one of those players is a big man, 7-foot Willie Cauley-Stein. They also have a point guard, De’Aaron Fox, who destroyed Lonzo Ball in college. Buddy Hield won the Wooden Award as the best college basketball player in 2015-16 at Oklahoma.

Marvin Bagley was the No. 2 overall pick in last year’s NBA Draft, a 6-11 forward out of Duke who can do everything. 

Those four stack up pretty good against Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma. 

Walton also gets away from the circus that coaching LeBron James has become. 

As for Laker Land, no one knows who is replacing Magic Johnson. If I was Jeanie Buss, I would decide who was going to take Johnson’s place before I hired someone to replace Walton

By Don Wanlass

Staff Writer