Tiger Woods Isn't Giving Up, but the Same Health Questions Remain

The five-time Masters winner made it through 72 holes at Augusta and sounded optimistic for the rest of the year's majors.
Apr 14, 2024; Augusta, Georgia, USA; Tiger Woods and his caddie, Lance Bennett, walk to the No. 18
Apr 14, 2024; Augusta, Georgia, USA; Tiger Woods and his caddie, Lance Bennett, walk to the No. 18 / Adam Cairns, Adam Cairns / USA TODAY

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The Masters played out for Tiger Woods in way that epitomizes how the last 10 years have gone for the 15-time major champion. His effort on Thursday and Friday was glimpse of how good he was in the 2018-19 timeframe when he returned from spinal fusion surgery and won three times, including his fifth Masters.

Then Saturday and Sunday was a reminder of the struggles he endured in the 2014-2017 timeframe, when he had three microdiscectomies and was constantly fearing when the back spasms would get him next.

The added burden now, of course, are the injuries he suffered in the 2021 car crash that severely impacted his lower leg, ankle and foot.

At the Masters, Woods only generally talked about his various aches and pains. But it  appeared the issues were more related to his back. All things considered, Woods seemed to walk fine. He was walking strongly during his Sunday round of 77.

Tiger Woods walks up the No. 1 fairway during the final round of the 2024 Masters.
Tiger Woods appeared to be walking comfortably on Sunday at Augusta National. / Adam Cairns / USA TODAY NETWORK

But after a birdie at the 5th hole Saturday—a hole he had not birdied since 2013—Woods fell apart. He bogeyed the 6th, made consecutive doubles at the 7th and 8th and then bogeyed the 9th, his approach shot causing him to wince on the follow-through.

He seemed to be O.K. after that other than the fact that his game did not return. His 82 was the highest score he ever shot at the Masters and just the fifth time in his pro career he shot in the 80s.

And it appeared eerily like those times several years ago when Woods might feel good one day with his back and bad the next. It’s unclear what remedies there might be, what relief can be achieved. But Woods did not sound like a guy who is giving up.

“Well, just keep lifting, keep the motor going, keep the body moving, keep getting stronger, keep progressing,” he said. “Hopefully the practice sessions will keep getting longer.”

And he suggested he will attempt to play the remaining major championships.

“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.”

There’s four weeks until the PGA Championship. Valhalla in Louisville is not the strenuous walk of Augusta National, but it’s no leisurely stroll either. The same questions remain: can Woods put in enough time to get ready without compromising his already fragile body? And can his physical setbacks subside?


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Bob Harig

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.