AUGUSTA, Georgia: The Masters patrons filled in every nook and cranny around the 18th green, awaiting the appearance of the man in red.
A scene that’s been so familiar to Tiger Woods on so many Sundays at Augusta National, but this one was different.
It wasn’t even 3 o’clock on the warm, sunny afternoon in east Georgia. Over on the adjacent first hole, leader Scottie Scheffler and closest pursuer Cameron Smith had just teed off in the final group.
Slouched over and limping observably, Woods climbed the beguilingly steep slope paving the way to the green as the fans gradually rose to their feet, the thunder working as they showed respect to a momentous rebound in the event that not a fantasy of an end of the week.
“Way to hang in there, Tiger!” a man standing back in the crowd belted out.
From a strictly golfing viewpoint, this was hardly the Woods that so many remembered. The guy who’s won five green jackets, the last of them just three years ago. The guy who’ll go down as one of the greatest to ever play the game, even if he never strikes another shot. (Don’t worry, he’s not done.)
This Woods, the one hobbling on a rebuilt right leg that he could’ve lost in that horrific car crash 14 months ago, closed with back-to-back 78s that were the worst scores of his Masters career.
He even had to take a left-handed swing at the 13th after knocking his ball onto the pine straw behind the green, right up next to an azalea.
His battered body basically pursued out of steam a charging 71 on Thursday (April 7), when Woods made his re-visitation of cutthroat golf without precedent for over 500 days.
He grinded out a 74 on Friday, ensuring he would make the Masters cut for the 22nd time in a row.
There was nothing left in the tank for the weekend.
Still, it was a gratifying experience, one that Woods clearly didn’t regret putting himself through even if he didn’t come close to winning a record-tying sixth green jacket.
“This tournament has meant so much to me and my family,” Woods said. “This is where all the great champions have ever played. They have walked these grounds.”
That Woods was able to walk the course again — for four days, no less — was a feat in itself.
After his wreck in February 2021, doctors told Wood that his shattered right leg might have to be amputated. They managed to save it, but he was confined to a hospital bed for three months. He’s still got screws and rods holding the bones in place.
Woods walked Augusta National with a limp that got more and more noticeable, sometimes using a club as a walking stick to help him get around.