Tiger Finishing the Masters More Important Than the Final Outcome

Yes, he was last, but the five-time champion was able to battle through his physical ailments for 72 holes and is already thinking about the rest of the year's majors.
Apr 14, 2024; Augusta, Georgia, USA; Tiger Woods tips his hat to patrons as he walks up No. 18
Apr 14, 2024; Augusta, Georgia, USA; Tiger Woods tips his hat to patrons as he walks up No. 18 / Adam Cairns, Adam Cairns / USA TODAY

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Coming off a rough weekend in which he struggled physically and with his game, Tiger Woods hardly sounded like someone who is a defeated golfer without plans to persevere.

Undoubtedly Woods was not happy with shooting a final-round 77 at Augusta National that will see him finish last among players who missed the cut for just the third time in his professional career.

But in a brief session with reporters after finishing his round some 60 minutes before the leaders were to tee off in the final round of the Masters, Woods talked about getting ready for the upcoming majors and continuing to work toward getting better.

“This is a golf course I knew going into it, so I'm going to do my homework going forward at Pinehurst, Valhalla and Troon, but that's kind of the game plan,” Woods said in referencing the venues for the U.S. Open, PGA Championship and British Open, respectively. “It's always nice coming back here because I know the golf course, I know how to play it. I can kind of simulate shots. Granted, it's never quite the same as getting out here and doing it.

“Same thing, I heard there's some changes at the next couple sites. So got to get up there early and check them out.”

Next up would the PGA Championship, May 16-19 in Louisville, Ky., where Woods won the 2000 PGA Championship (on his way to the Tiger Slam) and missed the cut in 2014 when he was dealing with some of the back problems that appear to be bothering him now as well.

Asked what the challenge will be in getting ready for the next major championship, he said: “Well, just keep lifting, keep the motor going, keep the body moving, keep getting stronger, keep progressing. Hopefully the practice sessions will keep getting longer.”

Woods awoke early to get ready for his 9:35 a.m. tee time, and while the exact things he does to get ready are unclear, it is obvious he needs some time to get loose.

“Certainly rooting for him and rooting for good golf shots,” said amateur Neal Shipley, the runner-up at last year’s U.S. Amateur who earned low amateur honors at the Masters and played with Woods during the final round. “He was awesome. Wish him nothing but the best.

“I really appreciate all the work that he does to keep his body ready to come out here. He told me that he woke up at like 3:45 this morning just to get ready for the day, which is—I got about three hours more sleep than him.

“He's really grinding and making a big commitment to be out here for everyone. It's awesome to see the patrons really appreciative of him and really enjoy having him out here.”

This week, Woods’s walking appeared as solid as could be expected in light of the significant injuries suffered to his lower right leg in the car crash from February 2021; just less than a year ago, he had surgery to have his ankle fused.

The significant issues, again, appear to be his lower back. Woods had spinal fusion surgery in April 2017 which led to the epic comeback that saw him win three times in 2018-19, including the Masters, his fifth green jacket and 15th major.

But late in 2020, months before the car crash, Woods had a fourth microdiscectomy. It is a procedure meant to remove part of a disk on the spine, and since the lower portion was fused for Woods, it suggested this one was done a little higher up.

Woods has said he has numerous aches and pains and there were apparent during a third-round 82
—his highest at Augusta—that came after he made the cut with scores of 73-72 to set a Masters record of 24 straight.

“It was a good week,” Woods said. “It was a good week all around. I think that coming in here, not having played a full tournament in a very long time, it was a good fight on Thursday and Friday. Unfortunately yesterday it didn't quite turn out the way I wanted it to.

“Today the round that I—the way that Tom (Kim) is playing I thought I had in my system. Unfortunately, I didn't produce it.”

Kim shot 66.

Woods got a birdie at the 2nd hole for the first time this week but gave it back with a bogey at the 3rd and then took an unplayable lie at the 5th that lead to a triple-bogey 7. He made no birdies and two bogeys the rest of the way.

The final leaderboard will show him in 60th place and his score of 304 the highest for a 72-hole event as a pro. He was last among those who made the cut at the 2015 Memorial, where he had his highest-ever score, an 85, in the third round. And he also finished last at the 2020 Genesis Invitational, his last event before the coronavirus pandemic.


Bob Harig


Bob Harig is a senior golf writer for Sports Illustrated. He has more than 25 years experience covering golf, including 15 at ESPN. Bob is a regular guest on Sirius XM PGA Tour Radio and has written two books, DRIVE: The Lasting Legacy of Tiger Woods and Tiger and Phil: Golf's Most Fascinating Rivalry. He graduated from Indiana University where he earned an Evans Scholarship, named in honor of the great amateur golfer Charles (Chick) Evans Jr. Bob, a former president of the Golf Writers Association of America, lives in Clearwater, Florida.