The Masters: A ‘Timeless’ Shot of Tiger Woods

“Literally, I don't remember even shooting that,” photographer Kohjiro Kinno says.
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It seems as though every time the Masters golf tournament tees off, there’s the potential for history to be made. Someone may charge up the leaderboard as competitors fall back after dumping shots into Rae’s Creek. And that’s just what happened the last time the Masters teed off during its customary spring week 24 months ago.

On April 14, 2019, that “someone” was Tiger Woods.

tiger-woods-tee-shot

Kohjiro Kinno’s assignment for Sports Illustrated that day at Augusta National was to photograph the winner. And as the final group (Woods, Tony Finau and Francesco Molinari) made their way through the course’s famed back nine, Kinno says he “started to kind of figure out that Tiger might pull this off.”

His instincts were right.

tiger-woods-patrons

The magnitude of Woods’s eventual victory that day has been well-documented. “Tiger Woods won his fifth Masters, his 15th major, and his 81st PGA Tour event on Sunday, and these are astounding stats, all of them. But this is not math class, and Woods’s story is not really about numbers. It is about the way he makes you feel,” Michael Rosenberg wrote for SI in a piece titled “Tiger Roars Again: Golf's Greatest Comeback Is Complete.”

That’s part of the reason why, on that Sunday afternoon, Kinno was sweating.

Kinno’s plan was to skip the last few holes and catch up with Woods, his group and the thousands of patrons itching to witness history on the 18th hole. At first, he thought he might’ve been too late. He shared his recollections of that day with SI for our Full Frame video series.

“Everyone that was following Tiger, they're just also going with me. And I'm just starting to kind of panic a little bit,” Kinno says. “I knew my spot was down there on the green, but there's just a sea of people.

“And, you know, some of the veterans, they know how to navigate that course very quickly. And I'm not a veteran at that course. You start to kind of sweat, like, how am I going to get up there or even if I'm going to get up there?”

By the time Kinno “finagled” his way through the patrons and got to his spot at the 18th green, Woods was walking up the fairway.

“You just feel the energy,” Kinno says. “Everyone knows it's going to happen.”

tiger-woods-green

When Woods got to the green, he missed his first putt. If Woods had made it, Kinno says, the photographer would have gotten “a cool shot because [Woods] would have looked straight at me.” But for his next putt, he turned so his back was facing Kinno.

When Woods knocked in that final putt, he bent down to grab his ball and then turned around, throwing his arms toward the sky in celebration.

“I think it was the most genuine happiness for an athlete, someone like Tiger that's been through a lot of personal stuff, and just being able to feel that with an athlete and the crowd was really enjoyable for myself,” Kinno says.

tiger-woods-putt

After shooting the green jacket presentation, Kinno had to go back to the media center to transmit the image files. Kinno remembers thinking that he did his best to capture what he could during those moments on the final green. But he wasn’t totally sure about what he was able to get.

“Literally, I don't remember even shooting that, you know, pressing the shutter,” Kinno says. “But I think everyone just pressed that shutter really quick. And he did that twirl. And luckily, we were straight on with [Woods].”

tiger-woods-celebration

Either that night or the next day, Kinno says he learned his photo would be on the cover of SI, one that lacks almost any other text aside from the magazine’s title. Just Woods and those who witnessed his victory.

“I think it's a very timeless shot,” Kinno says. “And hopefully 20, 30 years from now, I look back and I could show my kids or whoever it is, my family, and I feel like, O.K., you know, maybe they could feel that excitement. Whatever it was that I captured, maybe they could feel that same thing.”

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Full Frame is Sports Illustrated's exclusive newsletter for subscribers. Coming to your inbox weekly, it highlights the stories and personalities behind some of SI's photography.

To get the best of SI in your inbox every weekday, sign up here. To see even more from SI's photographers, follow @sifullframe on Instagram. If you missed last week’s edition on a personality-revealing portrait, you can find it here.

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