Leonard Thomas: Why Tiger thrills like no one else
Fit and on his game, there is magic in the air ahead of year's first Major at Augusta
I could not remember if it was Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson or Jason Day that she caught a glimpse of one early Monday morning on TV as he roared to victory in a Major, but I never forgot her sigh as she told me, "No one can do it like Tiger".
As his injuries mounted, as his winning habit dried up and as the years advanced, many were quick to christen every gifted young gun as his heir.
So many desperately wanted the likes of Spieth and McIlroy to be as electric as Tiger Woods to keep alive the crackling atmosphere he generated in their sport.
But, as talented as they are, as compelling as their storylines are, mum somehow had sussed out that a lot of the air had gone out of golf as he struggled with humiliation, pain and injury.
Today, one year after Sergio Garcia's thrilling win over Justin Rose at Augusta, the 2018 US Masters is about to tee off and Woods is playing great again, and golf is once more set to turn into the kind of sporting theatre that only ever happens when he is a leading man.
Woods' game is humming, and around the world there is again the kind of excitement that draws interest even from those who otherwise would not be enthused by the sport.
It is why we root for him when he plays.
Like mum, whose tongue started wagging a few days ago when she wondered if the 42-year-old could actually pull it off this week, and wield the same kind of magic that captivated her and everyone else for so long after he turned pro in 1996.
Any time Tiger Woods is healthy and in this sort of form, he’s dangerous.World No. 7 Rory McIlroy
The rhythmic twirl of the club, a signal of pleasure after a sweet swing, is once again regularly visible in every round he plays.
The throngs that have accompanied him during practice at Augusta National over the last few days have been a sight to behold as fans look to be part of a story that could have a special conclusion in golf's first Major of the year.
AMONG THE FAVOURITES
The world No. 103 is back among the favourites and it is no surprise as he's in fine form and is at a venue where he's already won four times.
Of course, there is every chance he will not win.
There are 86 other players in the field and a few stars are in similarly good form.
There could be a major letdown if the surgically fused back or the repaired knees start to bother, but if he is firmly in the mix in the final round, there are very few sights more exciting in golf than a menacing Tiger at Augusta.
As always, he will have the most followers when he goes to work, and there is a sense that these days the fans are emotionally attached to Woods after years where he just seemed to be a distant, inscrutable superstar.
Yes, they roared for him in each of his 14 Major successes, but it seemed as if the raucousness that greeted a Phil Mickelson triumph was always more heartfelt.
Critics wanted Woods to drop his game face on occasion, as if single-mindedness and focus and attention to detail were faults.
They wondered why he needed a seemingly impenetrable security phalanx, unable to grasp the circus that surrounds him every time he goes out to play.
When he spat, they scolded.
Some wished he would not just win and talk blandly about his game but speak out more on issues, although no one ever called out Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer for not sitting on Muhammad Ali's side or speaking out in support of Martin Luther King Jr. when they were winning in the 1960s.
When Woods was busy changing his sport, he was captivating to watch and golf's fan base grew. When news of his sexual trysts and shattered marriage became public, his fall from grace was spectacular.
The quest to chase down Nicklaus' record haul of 18 Majors seemed lost forever.
That chase will be reignited if he wins a fifth Green Jacket. It is why we watch Woods.
Record-breaking feats always charges the adrenaline of onlookers, even those who don't know the difference between a 7-iron and a 3-wood and a sand wedge.
Make the cut and Woods will wear his signature red in the final round.
I don't know what my mother will say early next Monday morning as the tournament reaches a climax, but the anticipation ahead of Woods' return to the place where he started his Major collection is already stirring so much excitement.
Magic is always in the air when there's stardust in his game, it is why we watch him.