Somewhere high above the greens that surround the 18th green in Augusta, Dan Jenkins had to laugh, and maybe clap, at the sight of watching Tiger Woods putting on another green jacket.
In our first Masters without The Master of Golf since 1950, Woods did something that Jenkins simply did not see coming.
In one of his last interviews, which covered a wide array of subjects, much of which has already been printed, I brought up Tiger. The following has not been previously shared.
I told Jenkins I never thought Woods would regain his stature as the most dominant player in golf, based solely on his age.
“I’ve been saying that, too,” Jenkins said that September 2018 day in his home office in Fort Worth. “Of course, we’ll probably be wrong.”
“But every year he gets a year older. The cutoff point is 44. He will be 43 this year,” Jenkins said.
This week so many members of the media, and the Masters tournament organizers themselves, paid tribute to Jenkins, who died on March 7. This was our first major in decades without Dan. The press room at Augusta kept an empty seat in Jenkins’ honor.
No member of the media knew golf like Jenkins, who covered 68 Masters.
And Jenkins, like me, was only too sure that the Tiger Woods who built a career potentially superior to Jack Nicklaus was too far stuck in the rough. That Tiger would win golf tournaments, but not a major, again.
Jenkins was right. We were quite wrong.
“I think they are kidding themselves, the media,” he said. “He ain’t gonna win again. If he was ever going to win it again, it would have been (the 2018 PGA Championship) at Bellerive (Country Club in St. Louis). That is the easiest course ever you’ll play for a major. The greens held everything. There was no rough. No wind. It was ideal. I was not surprised he finished well. He still didn’t win.”
Woods finished second in the 2018 PGA Championship, two shots behind Brooks Koepka. On Sunday at Augusta, Koepka finished tied for second, one shot behind Tiger.
During our conversation, Jenkins was simply of mind that Woods had missed his window to regain what he had established. That Tiger’s chance to eclipse Jack’s record of 18 major championships was over.
“He would have been the greatest thing ever. He blew it,” Jenkins said of Woods, who now has 15 majors.
Then Dan grabbed a different angle.
“Although, you know, I did like what he said about (President Donald) Trump,” he said.
Jenkins was referring to an interview Woods did with ESPN back in August when he said of the president, ”Well, he’s the President of the United States. You have to respect the office. No matter who is in the office, you may like, dislike personality or the politics, but we all must respect the office.”
Jenkins said, “(Woods’) daddy raised him right. He was military all the way. Taught him to respect the military. He does. Near as I could tell, the only thing he didn’t like were golf writers.”
Although Jenkins was renowned for his ability to befriend anyone who ever held a golf club, including the notoriously reclusive Ben Hogan, Woods was one who simply refused to play along. At all.
“I never had a 1-on-1 with him. I wrote a lot of good things about him,” Jenkins said. “He would not remember that from 1997 to 2008, I never wrote anything bad about him at all. I immortalized him. I was one of the guys who accepted him as golf’s only rock star.”
Tiger has never taken to criticism well, and he famously took exception to the parody Q&A Jenkins once wrote “with” him for Golf Digest in December 2014. The parody interview is classic Jenkins; he simply could not have picked a source who would have hated this, or deserved it, more. Which is what makes it so brilliant.
In this fake interview, Jenkins “asked” Tiger, “You’ve been incredibly rich and obscenely rich. Which is better?”
Jenkins also wrote this question to Tiger in that famous piece, “Not sure you’re aware of this, but back when you were at the top of your game I was also the guy who said only two things could stop you from winning more majors than Jack: injury or a bad marriage.”
Dan was right about Tiger.
And in our first Masters without The Master, Jenkins was once again right about Tiger: We were wrong.