At the Masters, Tiger Woods’ defiance, optimism continue despite bleak prospects for the future — Andscape

AUGUSTA, Ga. — The red color of his shirt was the only reminder of many of his past Sundays at the Masters. It was around 1:30 p.m. ET at the Augusta National Golf Club and the eventual winner, Scottie Scheffler, was still an hour away from starting his final round.

But here was Tiger Woods, who was accustomed to playing late on Sunday afternoons, finishing his day with a 5-over par 77 to finish in last place among the 60 players who made the 36-hole cut.

On Saturday, the five-time Masters winner — saddled with back pain — shot an 82 for his worst round in 26 appearances in golf’s first major of the year. Yet he was determined to finish the tournament. Only Woods could draw a such a massive gallery, where the patrons hadn’t come to see him compete for the green jacket, as much to celebrate what he had been when he was the best golfer on earth.

As he made his way up the 18th hole on Sunday, the patrons swelled around the green, forming an amphitheater for perhaps this great player’s last scene on this grand stage.

Tiger Woods waves his hat to the crowd while walking to the 18th green during the final round of the 2024 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 14 in Augusta, Georgia.

Andrew Redington/Getty Images

The 15-time major winner has never looked worse in a storied career mired with injuries. In Saturday’s third round, Woods hit just eight greens on his way to two double bogeys, eight bogeys and two birdies. It was more of the same on Sunday. After making a birdie at the par 5 second hole, he went six over for his next 16 holes and had just one birdie in the round.

Yet he declared the week a success, showing a defiance and optimism for a playing career with bleak prospects for the future.

“It was a good week all around,” he said. “I think that coming in here, not having played a full tournament in a very long time, it was a good fight on Thursday and Friday. Unfortunately, yesterday it didn’t quite turn out the way I wanted it to.”

Woods is determined, if not perhaps a tad delusional, to believe that he still has what it takes over 72 holes to win a major championship or any tournament. But few athletes in any sport have shown as much dedication as he has to overcoming adversity to return to the winner’s circle.

On Sunday morning, Woods rose at 3:45 a.m. to go through the treatments to get his body prepared for his 9:35 a.m. tee time. Where once he set the standard for excellence on the course, causing players to tremble with fear in his presence, he’s now almost pitied by competitors, even as they revere him as a god in the sport.

“I don’t think anyone wants to catch Tiger at his best,” said Neal Shipley, a 23-year-old amateur who played with Woods on Sunday. “No one is going to win when he’s playing his best. Certainly rooting for him and rooting for good golf shots. I really appreciate all the work that he does to keep his body ready to come out here. He’s really grinding and making a big commitment to be out here for everyone.”

Woods will tell you how hard he’s working. It’s his nature both to do the work and talk about it. These days, he’s doing more training than playing competitive golf. On Sunday afternoon, he repeated his mantra: “keep the motor going, keep the body moving, keep getting stronger, keep progressing.”

Tiger Woods plays his shot from the fourth tee during the final round of the 2024 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 14 in Augusta, Georgia.

Warren Little/Getty Images

But to what end will all this work serve for his future as a serious challenger in major championships?

Coming into the Masters, many in the golf world were hoping that Woods’ body could withstand Augusta National’s hills for four days. On Sunday afternoon, there was a sigh of relief on the faces of many in the gallery when he walked up the 18th hole. It was a relief that was also on his face. He couldn’t be satisfied by his play, but the vicissitudes of life have taught the 48-year-old to be grateful over more modest gains like a pain-free day and simply completing a tournament.

By the time he finished signing his scorecard, Woods was already looking toward the remainder of the year’s major championship schedule. In May, the PGA Championship will be held at the Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky. In 2000 at Valhalla, Woods beat Bob May in a three-hole playoff for his second straight PGA Championship. That was the Woods who was in the midst of winning four straight major championships.

He can’t be that player again and he knows it, but that doesn’t mean he’s not determined to get one more shot at greatness.

Farrell Evans has written about the intersection of race and sports for many publications including Sports Illustrated, Golf Magazine, GQ, The Oxford American, Bleacher Report, and Andscape, where he writes regularly about golf.


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