Ignore the scoreboard and the limp, Tiger Woods had a good ride at the Masters

AUGUSTA, Ga. — The flurry of security moving into his spot let the few people know they were in the back of the clubhouse. tiger forest I was going out to the parking lot. His caddy, Joe LaCava, had already dropped Woods’ clubs in his car and left in a golf cart. The milling fans stirred against the cold. Then Woods got out and walked with a pronounced limp toward his car. He looked pained, and the thought that he had somehow wanted himself not to limp in front of the cameras made his long, brutal Saturday all the more poignant. Stripped of the mask of him, he carried heavy the last 14 months, and especially the last two days.

Woods shot 78. The round looked as bad as the number sounds. He made more faces than before. Howling winds blew around the field, the temperature steadily dropping, which is the worst possible weather for his sore, rebuilt leg. He made a joke about it earlier in the week: “I think anyone in this room who’s older than me can probably attest to that,” but it didn’t seem funny in the setting sun, and he was on his way to spend the next few hours with hoping his team can find enough duct tape and wire to get him back to the first tee on Sunday.

If that sounds bleak, that’s because it felt a bit like that. The energy drained off the course as people realized it didn’t have a championship race on it. Not this year. He made four putts to make a hole. He made three puts to four more. He struggled to bend down to read the greens. Still, there were glimpses of what he used to be and what he could be again, when he has more time to grow stronger and heal. Standing on the 12th hole, looking up and trying to calculate the swirling wind at Amen Corner, he did the math in his head. He talked to LaCava, who had a 9-iron. The wind changed.

“Nine or wait?” La Cava asked.

Tiger took the stick and took aim. He hit it on the green and rolled in his birdie putt. He too birdied No. 13 before bogeying No. 16 and 17. A crowd gathered around the final tee. The mood of the gallery was not the frenzy of a Sunday charge, nor the usual jockeying for a better view. People seemed to be grateful, if that makes sense, maybe for his recovery, or more likely for the effort he took to get this far, to the 54th hole of the Masters.

“Thanks, Tiger,” a boy yelled. “We love you!”

Woods hit a nice drive before the two bunkers on the left side of the fairway. He spun the stick and walked after the blow. To the right of him, on the tenth green, a great roar went up from the gallery, cheering on someone else. It was no longer his tournament to win, the roars now awaited the rest of the field. He kept walking and another roar echoed from somewhere behind him. The future of golf was rolling this Saturday, all popular leaders among people who love golf, who gather around gaming tables and throw money around Calcutta, but the only golf legend in the world just wanted to end this march.

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Tiger Woods pulls a beauty out of the trap and nearly breaks it open for the eagle.

Woods hit his second shot to the gallery, chipped in badly and then made three puts to finally end the day. Walking off the green, he exhaled sharply.

“It’s like I hit a thousand putts on the greens today,” he said. “I just couldn’t feel how to get comfortable on the ball. Posture, touch, my right hand, my shot, I just couldn’t find it.”

He had only 18 holes left to finish one of the bravest tournaments of his career, even if he was playing for a kind of moral victory. They asked him what he hoped people watching from home would get out of his stubborn insistence on playing.

“Never give up,” he said. “Always chase your dreams.”

It’s strange to think of Tiger Woods as a guy with dreams. Goals, sure, like hitting metrics in the gym, or improving his range of motion by small degrees. A dream is a childish thing, full of wonder and imagination. He is a private guy and his dreams are still his. But for people wondering why he would try to play this week, there might be an answer in that one word. The last three days and Sunday are just the beginning of something he sees for himself. Tiger Woods will not win the 2022 Masters, but he will emerge victorious from this spot.

“I fight every day,” he said. “Every day is a challenge. Every day presents its own different challenges for all of us. I wake up and start the fight again.”

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