Augusta, Georgia – Tiger Woods had just smashed three holes on Sunday at Masters Stadium when he stood at the tee box at No. 18. Some of the men sitting around the 17th Green Zone didn’t even bother to watch.
This was not an accusation against the sixth Green Jacket. This was the final chapter on Sunday unlike any other quarter-century Woods chapter about Augusta National Golf Club: he shot 76, which is equivalent to his worst round of any Masters tournament. However, this result was a much greater achievement than a tie for 38th place on an equal footing would suggest.
“This sport feels so lonely at times,” said Woods, who entered the tournament as the defending champion. “You have to fight it. Nobody will take you off the hill or call you in a branch. You have to fight through it. That is what makes this game unique and very difficult mentally.”
Few characters in the game could have moved on like Woods, who seemed intent on saving something even if only a few people watched it. He knocked out five of the last six holes and ditched the others – a better late show than the new champ, Dustin Johnson, who finished the race at 20 under. By invoking experience that he considered particularly vital in the Masters, Woods somehow synthesized the kind of performance that naturally causes grounds to swell into a roar.
But it only came after a disastrous turn indisputably 12th, The hole Woods used as a starting point To winning masters only last year.
Glowing in his red ritual Sunday, he walked to the crater, the number 3 around Rae’s Creek that has made it even more dazzling this year with its soft fall hues after the coronavirus pandemic forced the delay of the traditional April main party. He’s got confidence in another tournament, having equalized there on his first two rounds and birdies on Saturday.
swing. plop. The ball rolled in the water.
“The wind was far to the right for the first two men, and then when I got up there, I turned into a howl from the left,” said Woods. “I did not stick to the wind, and I also brought it forward and pushed it too, because I thought the wind would come more from the right and it was farther from the left, and this started the problem from there.”
He added, “From there, I hit a lot of shots and had a lot of experience there at Ray Creek.”
From the drop zone: swing. Hit green. Roll back in the water.
Again from the drop zone: The ball kept dry, but it landed in my back vault. Then, with Woods’ legs forming part of the quadrilateral above the sand, he banged the mast in the water. He tried again from the basement and finally reached the green area safely.
Just lost. Then, finally, technically speaking, the 10th stroke came up with a finding somewhere between euthanasia and agony. He cleared the pit with a score of 56 in the day and was his worst score of any single hole during his PGA Tour career. His gallery, already greatly diminished due to Augusta National’s pandemic reserves, also escaped.
“He had some calamity in that hole, right?” Shane Lowry, who was in the Woods group, said. “See, this is Augusta when the wind blows like this. It’s a pity that we’re not there all day in this because it would have been a good opportunity for some people to score well and move away on the leaderboards.”
Woods has definitely tried. But there is so much to do in the last six holes, even at the start of the day and before the torment occurred in the hole known as the Golden Bell, Woods needed the greatest comeback in Masters history if he were to keep his green jacket for another year.
Observers weakened more. Woods, almost invisible on all scoreboards, dashed around the track. Did not matter.
Byrdie. Par Byrdie. Byrdie. Byrdie.
Then to Number 18, the place where the heroes were plunged into glory. He looked out from the 465-yard pit and was the final test of a losing championship.
He led her into the middle of the corridor, to the right of the second bunker. Then came a push on the green zone. A great kick to the bird wins a flutter but nothing like a roar.
A reporter then asked about his motivations – if he’s anxious, at 44 and with a march of victory, pain and scrutiny, it might fade at some point.
“No matter how hard you try, things don’t work the way they used to, and no matter how much push and demand from that object, it just doesn’t work sometimes,” Woods said. “Yes, it is more difficult than others to be motivated sometimes.”
But he was there on a Sunday in Augusta, pushing to the end, assessing the past, and talking about the future. Later, he appeared to introduce Johnson’s green jacket.
This Sunday, at least, it was someone else’s turn.