Throughout a golf career that has included 79 PGA Tour triumphs and victories in 14 major championships, Tiger Woods always gave the sense that there were no such things as moral victories. Wins were wins, and anything else was unappreciated and unacceptable.
But after injuries and operations prevented him from playing the past two Masters, and from even being able to tee it up in a major since the 2015 PGA Championship, he appears now to appreciate just being able to compete. And when he walked off the golf course at Augusta National on Sunday after a final-round 69 that left him at 1-over for the Tournament, he seemed very much at ease.
“The Masters is one of the greatest walks in all of golf, and all I have been able to do the past couple of years is just come here to eat,” Woods said. “I missed playing out here. I missed competing against these guys. It is such a great event, the best-run event in our sport, and I am glad to be able to compete and hit the ball the way I did.
“That’s quite a big change. If you had said that last year at this particular time I would have been competing again, I would have said you were crazy. I had a hard time just sitting or walking.”
Woods played a rather uneven round on Sunday, posting five birdies (on Nos. 2, 4, 8, 13 and 17), four bogeys and an eagle on the par-5 15th that sent roars through the pines that cluster in that part of the course. But he nonetheless managed to shoot 3-under par, and that gave him reason to feel pretty good about his game.
“I felt I hit it well enough off the tee to do some things,” Woods said. “But I hit my irons awful for the week. I had so many opportunities to hit the ball close and didn’t do it. And if you miss a shot just a touch here, it gets magnified. Like on 18 today, I hit such a beautiful, high 7-iron, and it was a foot away from being back down the hill [toward the pin]. Instead, I got this putt that you’ve got to hit sideways.”
When asked about his post-Masters plans, Woods said he was going to take some time off, as has been his custom when he has played the Tournament in the past.
“Generally, I put my clubs away and take three to four weeks off,” Woods said. “The run-up to the event is pretty hard and pretty grueling. I pushed myself pretty hard to get ready, and it’s tiring.”
He may be tired, but Woods said that his play at the Masters has set him up pretty well for the rest of the year.
“Things are progressing,” he said. “I am a little disappointed that I did not hit my irons as well as I needed to. But overall, I am five or six tournaments into it, and to be able to compete here and score like I did feels good.”