At the Masters, Tiger Woods finishes, a victory in itself

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Tiger Woods had 212 yards to the fifth green Sunday morning. Holding a long iron, he swung with appropriate speed and rh...


AUGUSTA, Ga. — Tiger Woods had 212 yards to the fifth green Sunday morning. Holding a long iron, he swung with appropriate speed and rhythm. But something was wrong with ball contact, and in the millisecond it took Woods to go from downswing to following, he let go of the club. He fell to the ground over his left shoulder.

The shot bounced 30 yards from its target and Woods grimaced. His shoulders slumped. He sighed and retrieved the club from the grass and slowly limped forward, heavily favoring a surgically reconstructed right leg after his car accident on February 23, 2021.

The 2022 Masters Tournament, which began with a smiling Woods delighted to be back at Augusta National Golf Course surrounded by a group of supportive colleagues, was being played for him in his final hours in a modest and humble way. .

Woods’ error on the fifth hole of the final round was one of many blunders, in this case the second of three consecutive bogeys on the front nine. Since his surprising and inspiring one-under-par 71 first round, Woods has wilted piecemeal – betrayed by a sore right leg, a restless back hampered by the cold weather and the demands of walking and playing for seven straight days for the first time in 17 months.

On Sunday, the crowd that swarmed his opening rounds had thinned considerably as fans rushed to position themselves to see the fourth-round leaders, who would leave three hours later.

But as Woods made his way up to the 18th green, the large crowd of fans waiting for him cheered thunderously.

After a double bogey on the No. 17 and a 4-foot par putt on the No. 18, Woods finished the sixth inning over par, 13 over for the tournament. He pumped hands with playing partner Jon Rahm, tilted his cap towards the crowd and left the green, smiling and limping.

That was not the conclusion Woods envisioned when he pledged an unlikely return to elite competitive golf less than five months after declaring his days as a top player nearly over. But Woods doesn’t adamantly consider his four-day tally at this year’s tournament the measure of his appearance.

After Thursday’s first round, Woods, who for a quarter of a century has been known to say his only goal in any competition is to win it, was asked if simply showing up to Augusta National was a victory.

“Absolutely,” he replied. “Absolutely yes.”

It was a telling confession for Woods, but it elucidates the image of him slowly climbing the hilly terrain on Sunday, often grimacing. He finished far from the leaders, but he still finished.

After his final round, Woods said he was grateful after everything he’s been through to play this year at the tournament he’s won five times, and it has continued to mean so much to him. He said the week was his biggest accomplishment for a tournament he didn’t win.

“People who are close to me understand, they’ve seen it,” Woods said. “Some of the players who are close to me have seen it, and seen some of the images and the things that I’ve had to go through, and they probably appreciate it more than anyone. Because they know what it takes to do this here at this level.

He added: “It’s been a tough road and you know I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to be able to go through a lot of different things that could have happened. But in 14 months I’m able to play and play in the Masters.

It’s likely Woods won’t play again until the PGA Championship in mid-May in Tulsa, Okla. Woods said his schedule going forward could be modeled on the approach Ben Hogan took when he returned to golf after a car accident in 1949. Hogan suffered fractures to his collarbone, pelvis, a rib and an ankle, as well as other serious injuries. Hogan won the US Open the following year and two more major golf championships in 1951, but skipped many other tournaments.

In November, in his first public comments since his accident, Woods referred to Hogan’s return as a paradigm to follow.

“I think something realistic is to play the tour one day – never full time again – but pick and choose, just like Mr. Hogan did,” he said. “Pick and choose a few events a year and you play around that.”

On the 10th tee on Sunday, Woods took another fierce hit from his driver. He clung to his club and leaned on it as his ball clung to the left in the woods.

Next, Woods used the club as a cane to support his right side as he descended the steep slope that led to an 80-foot drop from the tee box to the far fairway. When he reached flatter ground, Woods handed his driver over to his caddie, Joe LaCava, and persevered.

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Newsrust - US Top News: At the Masters, Tiger Woods finishes, a victory in itself
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