Tiger’s Masters: No fairy tale ending but still inspiring | Associated press

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Masters patrons filled every nook and cranny around the 18th green, waiting for the Man in Red to appear.

A scene that felt so familiar at Tiger Woods so many Sundays at Augusta National, but this one was different.

It wasn’t even 3 a.m. on a hot, sunny eastern Georgia afternoon. At the first adjacent hole, point guard Scottie Scheffler and his closest pursuer Cameron Smith had just teeed off in the final group.

Bent over and limping noticeably, Woods climbed the deceptively steep hill leading to the green as fans slowly rose to their feet, the roar building as they hailed a remarkable comeback if not a weekend fairy tale.

“Way to hang on, Tiger!” shouted a man standing in the crowd.

From a strictly golf perspective, this was not the Woods that so many remembered. The guy who won five green jackets, the last just three years ago. The guy who will go down as one of the greatest to ever play the game, even if he never knocks again. (Don’t worry, he hasn’t finished.)

That Woods, the one limping on a rebuilt right leg he might have lost in that horrific car crash 14 months ago, closed with a straight 78 that was the worst scores of his Masters career.

He even had to swing his left hand on the 13th after he dropped his ball on the pine straw behind the green, right next to an azalea.

His battered body simply faltered after an electrifying 71 on Thursday, when Woods returned to competitive golf for the first time in more than 500 days.

He crushed a 74 on Friday, ensuring he would make the Masters Cup 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 though he was nowhere near earning a record-breaking sixth green jacket.

“This tournament meant a lot to me and my family,” Woods said. “This is where all the great champions have played. They have roamed these lands.

That Woods was able to walk the course again – for four days, no less – was a feat in itself.

After he sank in February 2021, doctors told Wood his shattered right leg may need to be amputated. They managed to save him, but he was confined to a hospital bed for three months. He still has screws and rods holding the bones in place.

Woods walked Augusta National with an increasingly noticeable limp, occasionally using a club as a cane to help him move.

More tellingly, he couldn’t fully bend down to read putts on Augusta’s tricky greens, which may explain why his stellar touch with the short stick seemed to let him down on the weekend.

But excluding all the tournaments he’s won – especially those 15 major championships – it looked like his greatest achievement in golf.

“For not having won an event, yes. Yes, definitely,” Woods said. “I don’t think people really understand. My relatives understand. They saw it. Some of the players who are close to me saw it and saw some of the images and things I had to go through. They probably appreciate him more than anyone because they know what it takes to make it here at this level.”

Everyone realizes how much Woods still means to the game, even though he is surely in the twilight of his career at 46.

“You just shot so hard for him,” said Harold Varner III, who joined Woods and Cameron Champ in making this the first Masters with three black players. “Obviously he’s great for the sport. If he’s there, we’ll make a lot of money.

Woods gave no indication of his future plans, but it is clear he intends to continue playing. The next major tournament is the PGA Championship, scheduled for May 19-22 in Southern Hills.

“See you on the road,” shouted his caddie, Joe LaCava, to members of the media gathered outside the clubhouse, waiting to speak to his boss.

Woods offered his own tantalizing assessment of what comes next, without revealing any real details.

“We are excited about the future prospects, training, getting into this gym and doing other things to strengthen my leg, which we weren’t able to do because it needed more time to heal,” he said. mentioned. “I think he needs a few more days to heal after that, but we’ll come back after that.”

As Woods spoke, a roar went up that sounded like Amen Corner.

Woods loves those roars. He hadn’t heard from them since winning in 2019. The following year, the tournament was played in November without fans due to the pandemic. Last year, of course, playing a golf tournament was the furthest thing from Woods’ mind.

“It’s exciting. It’s inspiring,” he said. “It’s fun to hear the roars.”

Woods hopes to create a few more before he’s finished.

This Sunday, he had to settle for the cheers that erupted one last time after hitting a short putt on the 18th hole for a 13 of 301 – his worst Masters performance as an eight-stroke professional.

As Woods took off his cap and headed for the clubhouse, the crowd around 18 began to disperse.

It was time to go and observe the players who actually had a chance of capturing the green jersey.

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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