Sports

Nate Kaeding on being at 'epicenter' for Tiger Woods' Masters win

Kaeding saw, heard and felt Tiger's win while at Augusta

Spectators roar as Tiger Woods celebrates his Masters win Sunday at Augusta National Golf Club. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)
Spectators roar as Tiger Woods celebrates his Masters win Sunday at Augusta National Golf Club. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

The threat of inclement weather in northeast Georgia Sunday was, Nate Kaeding said, “a gift from the gods.”

The former Iowa Hawkeyes and NFL kicker was at Augusta National Golf Club with friends over the weekend to see the final two rounds of the Masters. But they had a 9:10 p.m., flight scheduled Sunday from Atlanta to Cedar Rapids, so it meant they would have to leave the Augusta grounds in midafternoon and miss much of the tournament’s final round.

Until, that is, Saturday’s announcement that Sunday’s round was pushed up to a morning start because of forecasted thunderstorms for 3 p.m. and after in Augusta.

“Over beers the night before, we tackled the scenarios,” Kaeding said.

The decision was made to get to the course early and set up folding chairs on the hillside at the 16th green for use later in the day.

“They opened the grounds at 7:15 a.m.,” Kaeding said. “We got in line at 6. I probably was the 3,000th person in line at the south gate. When we got in we beelined it to our vantage point, dropped the chairs, and high-tailed it to (No.) 1. We got to the first tee at 9 a.m., and the leaders teed off 9:20.”

Kaeding and his friends, like everyone else there, knew the day had potential for high drama. That turned out to be an understatement when Tiger Woods rallied to win the event for the fifth time, but first since 2005.

“We followed Tiger’s group and were maneuvering to think one step ahead for vantage points,” Kaeding said. “We were with him all the way to Amen Corner. When Tiger blew his drive right on 11, I was 10 yards from his shot in the woods.”

He saw Woods knock his second shot on the green and two-putt from 25 feet to save par.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Kaeding and his friends then saw the threesome of Woods, Francesco Molinari and Tony Finau play No. 12 — with Woods the only one of the three to avoid putting his tee shot in Rae’s Creek — then hustled to their chairs at 16 to wait for the final threesome to get there.

“We got there and saw Justin Thomas make a hole-in-one,” said Kaeding. “Just before him, Jon Rahm was two inches from making one.”

You can see the 15th fairway from where Kaeding was sitting, so he saw Woods’ approach on the par-5 before his birdie putt that put him at 13-under-par and alone in the lead. Kaeding then had a bird’s-eye view of Woods tee shot at 16 that left within two feet of the hole for the birdie putt he sank.

“I’m thinking how I lucked into this,” Kaeding said. “To be that close was crazy. I’m a lifelong sports fan and golf fan. At that moment, I was at the epicenter of the sports world.”

Kaeding and his group stayed back at the bottom of the 18th fairway as Woods headed toward the green needing just a bogey for the win. You couldn’t get anywhere near the green at that point, so they hung back with so many others and listened to the rest.

“We were two, three hundred yards from the green,” Kaeding said. “Everybody was looking at each other, soaking it in on one of the greatest sporting days of our lifetime.

“There were roars (as Woods walked up the fairway) and dead silence (as he and his playing partners prepared to hit shots).”

Then there was the finish, and a big noise that rumbled across the golf course as the spectators chanted “Tiger!” as they and he celebrated the win.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Thank you for signing up for our e-newsletter!

You should start receiving the e-newsletters within a couple days.

“I grew up in the Tiger era, following his story,” Kaeding said. “As a spectator, that was a moment I’ll never forget. We were all on Cloud Nine.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.