AUGUSTA, Georgia – Tiger Woods had just bombed three holes at the Masters on Sunday when he reached the tee box at number 18. A few of the men were around the 17th green didn't bother to look.
This was not a charge against a sixth green coat. It was the last act of a Sunday like no other at Woods' quarter century around the Augusta National Golf Club: he shot 76, equal to his worst round at a Masters. Still, that score was a much bigger feat than he, or his draw for 38th place by one under par, would suggest. champion. & # 39; You have to fight it. No one will take you off the hill or turn on a submarine. You have to fight through it. That's what makes this game so unique and so difficult mentally.
Few characters in the game could push through like Woods, who was intent on saving something even when few people were watching. He's birding five of the last six holes and pared the other – a better late show than new champion, Dustin Johnson, who finished 20 under. By invoking the experience he considered particularly important with the Masters, Woods somehow amassed the kind of performance that would normally have swelled the grounds in roar.
But it came after an indisputably disastrous turn at No. 12, the hole that Woods used as a springboard to his Masters victory last year.
Dazzling in his ritual Sunday red, he strode to the hole, a par-3 around Rae's Creek made even more dazzling this year through the soft fall colors after the coronavirus pandemic delayed the traditional April major forced. He had a tournament worth of confidence again after making par there in his first two rounds and a birdie on Saturday.
Swing. Plop. The ball rolled into the water.
"The wind was from the right for the first two boys, and when I stepped there, it switched to howling from the left," Woods said. “I didn't tie myself to the wind, and I also walked in front of it and pushed it too, because I thought the wind would come more from the right and it was from the left, and that started the problem from there. "
" From there, "he added," I hit a lot more shots and had a lot more experiences there at Rae's Creek. "
From the drop zone: Swing. Hit the green. Roll back into the water
From the drop zone again: the ball stayed dry but landed in a rear bunker. Then Woods & # 39; legs were part of a quadrilateral above the sand, he slammed into the water over the flagpole. He tried again from the bunker and finally reached the green safely.
One putt just missed. Then, finally, technically speaking. a 10th stroke to a conclusion somewhere between compassionate and heartbreaking. He evacuated the hole with a 56 on the day and his worst score on a single hole during his career in the PGA Tour. His gallery, which had already been greatly downsized due to the pandemic Precautions from Augusta National, also fled.
"He had a bit of a disaster in that hole, didn't he?" said Shane Lowry, who was in Woods's group. "Look, this is Augusta as the wind gets up like this It's a shame we don't have the being out all day, because it would have been a great opportunity for some people to get good scores and really get high in the rankings. "
Woods certainly tried. But there's only so much to do on the last six holes when Woods, even at the start of the day and before the torture at the hole known as Golden Bell, needed the biggest comeback in Masters history if he was to keep his green coat for another year.
The observers are thinning more. Woods trudged on, invisible on almost all the scoreboards around the course. .
Birdie. Par. Birdie. Birdie. Birdie.
Then to No. 18, the place where champions are inundated with glory. He peeked through the 465 meter hole, the final test of a lost tournament.
He drove it to the center of the fairway, well to the right of the second bunker. Then it hit the green. A handy putt for birdie deserved hits, but nothing like a roar.
A reporter asked her raf to his motivation – whether he was worried, at the age of 44 and with a career of triumph, pain, and research, that it would fade. once gone.
"No matter how I try, things just don't work the way they used to, and no matter how much I push and demand of this body, it just doesn't work sometimes," Woods said. “Yes, sometimes it's harder than others to be motivated.”
But there he'd been with Augusta on Sunday, pushing to the finish line, assessing the past, talking about the future. Later he emerged to see Johnson to hand over the green coat.
At least it was someone else's turn this Sunday.