Fans cheer Woods for inspirational effort, not score

041022 Augusta: Tiger Woods prepares to putt on the second green during the final round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday, April 10, 2022, in Augusta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

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041022 Augusta: Tiger Woods prepares to putt on the second green during the final round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday, April 10, 2022, in Augusta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

AUGUSTA — It’s been 10 years since Tiger Woods has started the final round of the Masters as early as he did on Sunday. He stood there on the first tee at 10:50 a.m., joined by Jon Rahm as the fifth twosome to start on the chilly morning.

This day was not about a score, but more about appreciating the effort it required one of the game’s greatest players to return from a near-fatal car accident and gut his way through 72 holes on a leg that somehow held out on the harsh elevation changes required by Augusta National.

Woods shot 78-78 on the weekend to finish at 13-over 301. It was the highest 72-hole score he had posted in 24 Masters. But that seemed to matter very little.

Bubba Watson played in the group ahead of Woods and couldn’t help but watch his buddy somehow keep putting one foot ahead of the other.

ExplorePhotos: Tiger Woods on Sunday at the Masters

“Forget score,“ Watson said. “He might not admit it to the media but forget score. It’s pretty inspirational. I cry on a paper cut, but to see him walk and make the cut is pretty spectacular.”

Rahm said, “It was great because nobody cared about me, so I was just watching him play. I was one more spectator, and I ended up playing good. I was able to enjoy today as a fan and a player.”

The adulation for Woods never ceased all day. There was a Tiger Roar when he birdied No. 2, which turned out to be his only one of the day. The ring of spectators behind the tee box at No. 4 was nine deep for 20 minutes before he and Rahm played through. His poor tee shot there was met with a groan before the fans began screaming, “Let’s go Tiger,” as he walked down the hill.

That scene was repeated throughout the rest of the round and culminated with a lovefest when he trudged up the 18th fairway. The encouragement continued from those lined along the roped-off path to the scoring area, where his son and daughter awaited.

Woods, who generally abhors sentiment, was able to look at things differently this time. After emerging from the scoring area, he admitted it was one of the greatest achievements of his career.

“For not winning an event, yes,” he said. “To go from where I was to get to this point, I’ve had an incredible team that has helped me get to this point.”

Woods reiterated how difficult it was for him to reach the point of go-return – the work, the determination, the help.

“I don’t think words can really describe that, given where I was a little over a year ago and what my prospects were at that time, to end up here and be able to play in all four rounds. Even a month ago I didn’t know if I could pull this off.”

Woods made his first appearance at a tournament as a competitor in December when he teamed up with son Charlie to play in the PNC Championship. But that’s hardly the same as playing in the Masters.

“It’s one thing to play with my son at a hit-and-giggle, but it’s another to play in a major championship,” he said. “It’s been a tough road and one that I’m very thankful to have the opportunity to be able to grind through it. A lot of different things could have happened, but 14 months … I’m able to tee it up and play in the Masters.”