"The Tiger effect": Woods' improbable comeback has injected new energy into the game

Tiger Woods celebrates after sinking his putt on the 18th green to win during the final round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on Sun., April 14, 2019, in Augusta, Ga.

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Tiger Woods' Masters victory last month, his first major win since 2008, has injected the game with a jolt that only he can. His win at Augusta is being talked about as one of the great comeback stories not just in the history of golf, but in all of sport. 

Now, all eyes are on Bethpage Black golf course on New York's Long Island where the 101st PGA Championship is underway to see if his terrific story of resilience can get even better.

CBS Sports golf analyst Dottie Pepper, a winner 17 times on the ladies tour, says everything changes when Tiger's roaring.

"There's a buzz. There's a different vibe when he plays. And it's also a different day-to-day heartbeat, even for us covering it. You have to plan on traffic that's not there when Tiger plays in events. It is a very real thing," Pepper said. "It's like the triple shot cappuccino in the morning when you're usually only getting one. It's that sort of energy that's back around golf again."
 
The "Tiger effect" is easy enough to measure. TV ratings for the final round of this year's Masters were up more than 41 percent over last year's tournament – a fact not lost on veterans like Steve Stricker, one of Woods' closest friends on tour.

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"It's crazy. He definitely moves the needle out here and it, you know, we're all just as interested as anybody else," Stricker said.
 
The younger generation of golf stars feels it, too. Max Homa, a recent winner on tour, was 6 years old when Woods won his first masters.
 
"He is the coolest dude that's ever played golf," Homa said. "It's been a blast for what he's done for the whole game, making it a lot – a lot cooler, and a little bit younger."
 
But this comeback chapter of Woods' story – the one in which he's awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor – is one that's grabbed the attention of those who've never touched a golf club.

He overcame crippling back pain that left him wondering if he would ever walk right – never mind play championship golf again. Then there was the painkillers that led to his DUI – and the mugshot that captured his bottoming out in humiliating detail.
 
Sports Illustrated senior writer Michael Bamberger has covered Woods' career from the beginning.
 
"Oh, it goes way beyond sports. You know, my 88-year-old mother is watching," Bamberger said. "She said when he came off that 18th green and Tiger picked up the son and hugged the daughter. my mother, maybe like millions and millions of others are like, this guy's a human being after all."

The oddsmakers have installed Woods as the favorite to win at Bethpage Black this week. He is an 8-to-1 shot followed by last year's PGA champ, Brooks Koepka, at 10-to-1.