No storybook ending but Tiger’s presence animates Augusta

And yet, somehow, that lame form and strained smile told a fascinating story of its own, the story of a man who fought so hard to compete on some of the toughest terrains. holiest of his chosen sport, even if he sometimes had to use a loyal club as a cane.

How badly did Woods suffer on Sunday?

“Mmm-hmm,” he nodded in affirmation of that simple, straightforward question, trying to smile through his grimace.

Woods stood atop a wooden box as he spoke, one set up not far from the entrance to the score shack and Augusta’s clubhouse just up the 18th green. Raising his right leg to this height had proven to be a difficult task, done slowly and carefully, much like the fourth round in four days he had just completed. There was no longer any reason to hide how difficult it had all been, not from the fans who still lined his fairways early in the morning to the family, including his mother Kutilda and children Sam and Charlie, who waited behind him. to come together in hugs.

The story arc had changed so much, from the miraculous 1-under-par debut in Thursday’s first round, which came 509 days since he last played a competitive round, to the Masters Cup what he did with another solid ride on Friday, it all happens just 13 and a half months since he nearly lost his life, and nearly lost his leg, in a car crash in California. As the adrenaline waned and exhaustion set in, Saturday’s putts wouldn’t fall and Sunday’s pains wouldn’t subside, the unmissable level of excitement that had started his week s had turned into a level of empathy that was hard to watch. to close it.

“Just to be able to play, and not just to play, but I had a good first round. I got into it,” he said. “I don’t quite have the stamina that I wish I had, but a few weeks ago I didn’t even know if I was going to play in this event.”

Tiger Woods strikes a familiar pose as he tees off during Sunday’s final round in Augusta.Gregory Shamus/Getty

Yet he wouldn’t change it, or otherwise. Nor should the golf world wish otherwise. For all the divisive elements of Woods over the years, from the embarrassing stories of infidelity that destroyed his marriage to the irresponsible driving that destroyed his car not so long ago, from the occasional club thrown in anger on the the more than occasional foul language course dropped on it too, Woods’ place in golf history cannot be overstated. When he, a black man with such a powerful game, a child prodigy with such creative shots, won that first green jacket 25 years ago, a new golf story began.

And with it came the permanent right for the man who wrote it to write his own Augusta endings.

“This tournament has meant so much to me and my family, this whole tournament,” he said into the microphone on Sunday. “You go back to the year I was born, and that was the year the first black man played in the Masters at Lee Elder. He was an honorary starter last year. He was there when I won in 1997, and 25 years later I’m playing again.

“It meant a lot to me, and there’s no other place, no other major where we play in the same venue. St. Andrews is, obviously, very dear to my heart because it’s the birthplace of golf, and I was able to win a few Opens there, but we are touring.

“This is different. This is where all the great champions have played. They have roamed these lands.

None more slowly and deliberately than Woods did on those 7,510 yards on Sunday. By the end, he had hit a round of 78 to match the 78 he had played on Saturday, a total of 301 strokes, eight more than his previous worst performance in the Masters, in 2012, when he returned what was then his worst finish as a pro, a tie for 40th.

He is alone in 47th this year.

And yet, there was victory here too. He won by being there.

“I don’t think people really understand,” he said. “People close to me understand. They saw it. Some of the players who are close to me saw it and saw some of the images and things I had to go through. They probably appreciate it more than anyone because they know what it takes to make it here at this level.

“It’s one thing to play with my son at a hit and laugh, but it’s another thing to play in a major championship. It’s been a tough road, and I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to A lot of different things could have happened, but 14 months [after the accident]I am able to play and play in the Masters.

No wonder he didn’t hesitate to count this among his greatest accomplishments.

Tiger Woods waves to the crowd on the 18th green after finishing his round Sunday at Augusta.Gregory Shamus/Getty

“For not having won an event, yes. Yes, without a doubt,” he said. “To go from where I was to get to this point, I had an incredible team that helped me get to this point and incredible support – the amount of texts and FaceTimes and calls that I received from players close to me throughout all this time has meant a lot.

Appropriate for someone who means so much to golf.

Tara Sullivan is a columnist for The Globe. She can be contacted at Follow her on Twitter @Globe_Tara.

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