When Tiger Woods made his way up to the 18th green at Augusta National Golf Club Sunday, he was treated to a thunderous ovation from the patrons in attendance.
Except this time, they weren't celebrating the anticipation of a putt to win the Masters for a sixth time. This time, they were giving a standing ovation for Woods simply completing four rounds of golf -- four rounds of fighting through unimaginable pain. For one final time this weekend, one more ride up the hills of Holly.
With his right leg being held together by pins, rods and screws, Woods had successfully made his way around the most difficult golf course to walk. And we were there to marvel at what we just witnessed. Woods' expectations be damned, it was exactly what everyone wanted to see this weekend.
In those moments, it didn't matter that Woods was +13 and finishing his worst career round at the Masters. All that mattered, was the journey had been completed. 14 months in the making.
"It was an unbelievable feeling just to have the patrons support out there," Woods said, via CBS. "I wasn't exactly playing my best out there, but just to have the support out there... I don't think words can really describe that, given where I was little over a year ago and what my prospects were at that time."
Just as it was an unbelievable feeling for the 46-year-old, just over a year removed from the fight of his life, completing his comeback to the PGA Tour, it was equally so for the thousands watching at Augusta National and the millions at home -- including yours truly.
For the past four days, Woods showed us all what it means to never give up. To never let somebody tell you that you can't do something. Despite the fact that Woods had won Majors playing through injury in the past and had overcome personal demons to win at Augusta National in 2019, most were certain that there was no coming back from his near-fatal car accident. That we had seen the last of golf's greatest icon.
But he proved them all wrong by merely showing up. And blasted through their expectations by making the cut and completing all four rounds. This is who Woods is: the most resilient athlete that I've ever seen.
And yet, he would admit that this weekend, while an accomplishment, was also a letdown. But only because when Woods steps out on the course, he expects to win. He confirmed as much Tuesday that he felt he had a chance to.
The conditions at Augusta National, however, combined with the inevitable fatigue in the final two rounds, didn't allow that to become a reality. While Woods was electric with his drive, hitting the fairways off the tee box at a 68% clip, the same could not be said about his work with the putter.
Unable to squat all the way to properly read his putts, Woods saw a majority of his birdie and par chances sail by the cup. As it would turn out, his 25-foot birdie make on No. 16 Thursday would be the only putt of his to likely show up on the next Woods highlight tape that you turn on. And it was lovely.
Make no mistake, this journey is finished, but it's more the turning of a page than the closing of a book. While Woods wouldn't guarantee that we would see him in the PGA Championship May 19-22 at Southern Hills, the same place he won at in 2007, he did say that he would do everything he can to prepare for it, as he did the Masters.
For those wondering when they'll see Woods again for sure, mark your calendars. Woods said that he will play in the 2022 Open Championship July 14-17 at the historic Old Course in St. Andrews.
“We're excited about the prospects of the future," Woods said. "About training, about getting into that gym and doing some other stuff to get my leg stronger, which we haven't been able to do because it needed more time to heal... I think it needs a couple more days to heal after this, but we'll get back after it, and we'll get into it.”
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