In the Masters, Tiger Woods finished, a victory in itself

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Tiger Woods was 212 feet from the fifth green on Sunday morning. Holding on to a long iron, he rocked at the right speed and pace. But there was something wrong with the ball, and in the millisecond that Woods had to go from fall to follow-up, he left the club. He threw himself to the ground above his left shoulder.

The shot bounced off 30 yards from his goal, and Woods grimaced. The shoulders were bent. He sighed and pulled the club out of the grass and slowly limped forward on 23 February 2021, after a car accident in his surgically reconstructed right leg.

The 2022 Masters Championship started with a smiling Woods excited to return to the Augusta National Golf Course surrounded by a supportive team of colleagues, playing in a small, humble way in his final hours.

Woods ’mistake in the fifth hole of the final round was one of many gaps, in this case the second in a row with three bogeyes in the front nine. Since his stunning and inspiring start to the under-71s, Woods has gradually withered – betrayed by a sore right leg, his back sore from the cold weather and the demands of walking for seven days in a row for the first time. 17 months.

By Sunday, the crowd that had gathered his early rounds had dwindled considerably as fans were in a hurry to see the leaders of the fourth round, who would play three hours later.

But as Woods made his way up the slope to the 18th floor, a large crowd of fans applauded.

After a double bogey at No. 17 and a 4-foot putt at No. 18, Woods finished the sixth round on par, 13th for the tournament.

It wasn’t the conclusion Woods had predicted when he tried to make it impossible for himself to return to competitive elite golf, less than five months after declaring his days as a major player. But Woods significantly doesn’t see the four-day score in this year’s tournament as a measure of his appearance.

After his first lap on Thursday, Woods, who has been known for winning a race in any competition for a quarter of a century, was asked if his appearance at Augusta National was a victory.

“Absolutely,” he replied. “Absolutely.”

It was an expressive confession to Woods, but it sheds light on the image of him slowly ascending the mountainous terrain on Sunday, often shivering. He didn’t finish close to the leaders, but he did finish anyway.

After his last round, Woods said he was grateful that, after all he had experienced, he had played in a tournament he had won five times this year, which meant a lot to him. He said the week had been his biggest achievement for the non-winning tournament.

“People close to me understand, they’ve seen it,” Woods said. “Some players close to me have seen it, and they’ve seen some photos and some of the things I’ve had to endure, and they probably appreciate it more than anyone. Because they know what it takes here to do it. ”

He added: “It’s been a tough road and you know, what I appreciate is being able to go through so many different things. But in 14 months, I will be able to pull the strings and play in the Masters. ”

Woods is unlikely to play again until the PGA Tour in mid-May in Tulsan, Okla. Woods said his schedule could be adjusted in line with the approach taken by Ben Hogan when he returned to golf from a car accident in 1949. Hogan suffered fractures to his neck, pelvis, ribs and ankles, as well as other serious injuries. Hogan won the U.S. Open and two other major golf tournaments the following year in 1951, but skipped many other tournaments.

In his first public remarks since his accident in November, Woods recalled Hogan’s return as a paradigm to follow.

“I think something realistic is playing tour one day – never full time again – but pick and choose, like Mr. Hogan did,” he said. “Pick and choose a few events a year and you’ll play around with it.”

On Sunday’s 10th tee, Woods took another hard swing from his driver. He held on to his club and bent over it as his ball hit the left in the woods.

Woods then used it as a cane to hold his right hand as he led the club down an 80-foot drop as he descended the steep slope. When he reached the ground flat, Woods gave his driver Joe LaCava to his caddy and continued as a soldier.

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