Tiger Woods is still a winner!
No, Woods didn’t win the 2022 Masters nor did he contend, but the sight of Woods some 14 months after his near-fatal car crash walking all four days at golf’s revered ‘Cathedral in the Pines’ was the stuff of champions.
Woods had come back from extended lay-offs mostly due to back surgery, but this week and from the longest period away from the game of his 26-year-pro career, was totally different.
Prior to this past week, it had been 508 days since Woods last played a competitive round, till last Thursday morning when he was introduced on the opening tee at Augusta National.
The sight the Sunday before of Woods’ private jet touching down at Augusta Regional Airport had the sports world buzzing and thoughts of; ‘Could Tiger be seriously thinking he is going to contest the Masters?” abounded.
Well, Woods himself didn’t know the answer to that question but those around him including fellow Masters champ, Fred Couples and close friend Justin Thomas were glowing in their assessment of Woods declaring: “Tiger looks great!”
Woods’ name was up on the main scoreboard at the back of the 18th when patrons arrived Monday morning, and his name then appeared on the media interview schedule for Tuesday, and then when the draw was released all eyes panned down to the 10.34am tee time Thursday – Tiger Woods.
In the lead-up days to the 2022 Masters we witnessed a new version of ‘Tiger Mania’ on the 25th anniversary of where ‘Tiger Mania’ began, following Woods’ capturing the first of now 15 Major Championships.
We finally had confirmation of what still seemed mind-blowing when on Thursday morning Woods was on worldwide TV being filmed heading to the Augusta National first tee. How many holes could he walk 14 months after doctors said straight-faced to Woods, he could very well lose his right leg?
Woods continued to impress remarkably breaking par with a score of 71 on day one, and then the near unimaginable, a day later he made halfway cut. Woods toughed out Saturday’s winter-like conditions before the sight of him arriving on the first tee on Sunday looking like he meant business and again wearing his traditional Sunday red shirt.
Those gathered around the first tee, those millions watching from the comfort of their loungerooms or wherever around the globe, were witnessing a winner. And 76-hours and 20 minutes after driving off the opening tee on Thursday, Woods came walking up the 72nd hole around 3pm local time to a standing ovation as the last group was on the second tee.
Five minutes later he putted out for a par. Woods removed his cap, to reveal a continuing thinning hairline, shook hands with playing partner Jon Rahm and the Spaniard’s caddy ahead of shaking the hand of his own caddy, Joe LaCava. Unlike three years ago, there was no family member to greet Woods only a line, from the back of the 18th green to the front of the clubhouse, of adoring fans. Many extended their hands seeking a Woods high five but Woods continued walking, and with a huge smile on his face before disappearing into the scorer’s hut.
Woods emerged to be led to the Butler Cabin for a second time this week, and a visit customarily reserved for the new Masters champion, but then Woods is a champion.
“It was an unbelievable feeling (walking up the last), just to have the patrons and the support out there”, he said. “I wasn’t exactly playing my best out there, but just to have the support out there and the appreciation from all the fans.
“I don’t think words can really describe that given where I was a little over a year ago and what my prospects were at that time to end up here and be able to play in all four rounds. Even a month ago I didn’t know if I could pull this off.
“I think it was a positive, and I’ve got some work to do and looking forward to it.”
Woods didn’t claim a sixth Masters green jacket nor did he get to add more Augusta National ‘hardware’ to those already bulging cabinets filled with such items as Masters-logoed crystal goblets for an eagle, a crystal bowl for an ace, or another crystal vase for the lowest round.
Woods left Augusta with nothing other than his golf clubs, his golfing attire, and, no doubt, a few other odds, and ends. His member’s green jacket will stay in his locker till whenever he returns to Augusta National.
What he did take with him as he drove down Magnolia Lane though was yet another remarkable career storyline, but this was a storyline that will be told and retold for years and decades to come. A storyline of determination, defying the odds,
Accomplishing the seemingly improbable, and succeeding, sadly again where some thought he would fail.
This makes Tiger Woods again a winner!
TIGER WOODS 86th MASTERS – FOR THE RECORD
- 27th Masters, 25th as a professional, and 25th anniversary of his 1997 Masters victory
- Posts 2022 scores of 71, 74, 78 & 78 for a 13-over-par 301 total (T47th)
- 11 birdies, 18 bogeys, 3 double-bogeys