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Weekly Read: Masters Comeback Complete, What's Next For Tiger Woods?

In his latest weekly look around the game, Bob Harig makes a guess at where we'll next see Tiger Woods, offers his thoughts on Scottie Scheffler's win and more.
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AUGUSTA, Ga. – Eight days in Augusta. It might not make enough for a book, but such a title authored by Tiger Woods is certainly a compelling story.

From the tracking of his plane a week prior and his tweet announcing he would be making the trek to the home of the Masters to continue his “preparation’’ and make a “game-time’’ decision to his final, agonizing steps on Sunday, it was quite the return to competitive golf for the game’s most compelling figure.

Even at age 46, well past his prime and recovering from a horrific car crash 14 months ago, Woods mesmerized the golf world with his comeback – far sooner than most could have imagined.

Bubba Watson called it inspiring and Fred Couples marveled at how well Woods hit the ball.

In the end, coming back to such a demanding golf course and all that is involved with walking Augusta National was too much. Woods shot a pair of 78s on the weekend, his highest scores in 94 rounds in the tournament. His 47th-place finish was his worst among 72-hole finishes, as was his score of 301, 13 over par. He finished 23 strokes back of winner Scottie Scheffler.

But as Watson said, nobody should really care about the score. “For him to be able to walk and make the cut is pretty spectacular,’’ Watson said.

Even Woods, who typically judges success by victories alone, allowed himself this concession, saying that for any tournament he has never won, this was among his greatest achievements. “Without a doubt,’’ he said.

Now what?

Woods showed playing golf is possible, but that far more work needs to be done. It will likely be days of recovery. His girlfriend, Erica Herman, and longtime friend Rob McNamara, were both part of the gallery all week. They noted how much effort went into this. Nobody knows how the recovery will go, and what it will take to play again.

“Just to be able to play, and not only just to play, but I put up a good first round. I got myself there,’’ Woods said. “I don't quite have the endurance that I would like to have had, but as of a few weeks ago, didn't even know if I was going to play in this event.

“To go from that to here, we're excited about the prospects of the future, about training, about getting into that gym and doing some other stuff to get my leg stronger, which we haven't been able to do because it needed more time to heal. I think it needs a couple more days to heal after this, but we'll get back after it, and we'll get into it.’’

That is an encouraging sign. So is the fact that Woods told Sky Sports he would be playing in the British Open this summer at St Andrews. The event already promised to be epic due to the hype surrounding its 150th playing. Add in Woods, who has won there twice, and it is raised to another level.

Prior to then Woods's starts will likely be scarce. Woods would not commit to the PGA Championship next month at Southern Hills, where he won the title in 2007. He said nothing about the U.S. Open at The Country Club. Even playing events between them seems doubtful. So if Woods were, to say, add Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament to his schedule, he would almost assuredly miss the U.S. Open two weeks later. And would he really be able to play the Memorial two weeks after the PGA?

“You can just tell that his leg is just not quite up there yet,’’ said Jon Rahm, the reigning U.S. Open champion who played with Woods on Sunday. “I've seen him in the (fitness) truck. He is limping in the truck. He is limping on the course. Obviously, he is trying very hard to play, but it's not easy to walk up and down those hills. At the end you can just tell that his leg and his body are just not used to walking this much, right?

“I believe if at home he can walk and get strength up and stamina in that sense, he will be able to be competitive again. This is the hardest walk all year. He will be able to go somewhere where it's a little easier to walk. It won't be as long, and I believe he'll be able to contend.’’

Contend? That might be the most inspirational of all.

Scheffler’s caddie assist

Scottie Scheffler hit the shots, and even with a couple of miscues on the 18th green, won fairly easily on Sunday by three strokes over Rory McIlroy, who shot a final-round 64.

Scheffler, the No 1-ranked player in the world, who with four victories in two months has surged to the top of the golf hierarchy. Perhaps it is coincidence, but Scheffler hired Ted Scott, the former caddie for Bubba Watson.

Scott was on Watson’s bag for both of his Masters victory and a good bit of his career. They split amicably last fall and Scott was ready to move on to some other aspect of golf, likely teaching. Then Scheffler called. And Watson is thrilled for his former caddie.

“He has made more money without me,’’ Watson said. “He needed 10 more years. I haven't told anybody, but I had some struggles this offseason. Wrote a book about some struggles. My wrist, I had a wrist injury all last year. Had some PRP (Platelet-rich plasma therapy).

“So I called him and told him. I said, “Look, man, I'm 43 years old. I don't know what I'm going to do. My wrist is killing me.’ He is, like, he needs 10 more years, and I gave him -- I felt like a nice retirement package when we split up, but we split up mutually.

“We're still great friends. We hang out. We played practice rounds together a couple of tournaments ago. Very thankful and awesome for a friend of mine to have a great bag like that, right? He can now teach another young kid leadership like he taught me for 15 years.’’

Prior to Scott working for Scheffler, the golfer had played 62 PGA Tour events as a pro and won $8.56 million. Since Scott went to work for Scheffler, he's made nine starts with four victories and $9.04 million in earnings.

Masters Views

Jon Rahm on Scottie Scheffler’s swing: “Resemblance of Greg Norman’s footwork, right? That sliding right foot. I think a lot of people like to point out the unusual stuff in somebody’s swing, but clearly it helps him deliver the club face the way he needs to. It works for each one of us, right?’’

Rory McIlroy after holing out from a bunker for a birdie at the 18th to shoot 64 on Sunday: “That’s as happy as I’ve ever been on a golf course right there.’’

Cameron Davis on what a 10-handicapper would have shot on Saturday, when the conditions were difficult and the scoring average was more than 74.5: “You could play really well and shoot below 100 if you make a couple of putts, I reckon. It depends if they’re a low ball hitter or high ball hitter. There’s a 20-shot difference between the two.’’

Bubba Watson on his biggest memory of the week: “Truthfully, it’s the inspiration of Tiger. Forget score. I don’t care. He might not say that to the media, but forget score, right? It’s pretty inspirational. Ten-year anniversary of my (first Masters) win, but watching him walk, gosh. I cry on a paper cut. For him to be able to walk and make the cut is pretty spectacular.’’

Masters Reviews

Bryson DeChambeau: After saying going into the 2020 Masters that Augusta National should play as a par-67 for him, he has matched that score once in 10 rounds. His best finish remains a tie for 21st at the 2016 Masters when he was an amateur.

Truth is, DeChambeau probably should not have played last week. A torn labrum in his left hip. A broken bone in his left hand. Coming into the tournament, DeChambeau admitted he did not expect the injuries to linger to this extent.

“I’m probably around 80 percent right now,’’ he said before the tournament. “I can’t go all out. I can’t do any speed training sessions. I can’t practice for excessive hours, like, I have to figure stuff out.’’

Aside from a tie for 25th at the Sentry Tournament of Champions – which has no cut – DeChambeau has not played for rounds of a tournament. He missed the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open, withdrew after one round at the Saudi International, then didn’t play again until two weeks ago, where he did not advance out of group play at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. He missed the cut at both the Valero Texas Open and the Masters.

He was scheduled to compete in a long drive competition this week, which now seems like a bad idea. Whatever he decides to do, it does seem this is already turning into a lost year for the 2020 U.S. Open champion.

“It’s one of those things that everybody has a tough stretch in their career, and especially with coming off an injury, swinging one-handed for three or four weeks with your right hand only, it messed my normal golf swing up.

“It's a learning experience. Every time, like I've always said, your lowest moments are your best -- your worst failures are your best teachers.’’

DeChambeau might be best served by delaying his return until fully healthy. He all but admitted he got into bad habits. And during the process, he has slipped from fifth in the world to 19th going into the Masters.

Jordan Spieth: A year ago, Spieth had seemingly solved his woes. Or at least was well on his way to doing so. After more than three years without a victory, he put together a strong spring, won the Valero Texas Open, climbed back into the top 15 in the world, and was a member of the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

But the results this year have been underwhelming. Aside from a second-place finish at Pebble Beach, Spieth has no top-20 finishes and has missed two cuts, including his first-ever at the Masters.

Spieth, a three-time major champion, said coming into the tournament he felt great and was “ready to contend’’ but he struggled at Augusta, making just five birdies and then double bogeying the last hole on Friday to miss the cut.

And he had admitted prior to the tournament that he was still trying to get back to the way he swung the club from 2014-17 when he was at his best.

“I’m still kind of pushing the agenda back to the way -- my DNA of the way I used to really swing the club,’’ he said. “So I'm still having to rehearse it and still really feeling, I would say, 200 percent of something that's only really moving an inch at a time.

“But it's closer and closer, and as it gets closer and closer, I just feel very slotted, very free through the ball, kind of feel comfortable hitting a certain shot. If I'm uncomfortable when I walk up to the tee, I can play a certain shot that takes that away under pressure.

“Then I think the difference maybe from last year at this time is just in kind of finesse shots, taking five to eight yards off of a club and still feeling comfortable hitting any shot.

“I'm just trying to structure it like it used to be, and it's allowing me to feel like I'm not using my hands, and I'm able to just hit it with my pivot, hit it with my body.’’

It seems as if it’s still a work in progress for Spieth, who is scheduled to play this week at Hilton Head.

Fore! Things

1. Scottie Scheffler leaves the Masters with four PGA Tour wins this season. The last player to match that in one season: Arnold Palmer in 1960.

2. Rory McIlroy’s 64 Sunday was his lowest at the Masters and one off the tournament record set by Nick Price (1986) and matched by Greg Norman (1996). It was the only bogey-free round of the week by any player and matched the final-round record previously shot seven times.

3. Scheffler has won four times in six starts. The last player to do that was Jason Day in 2015. That year, Day also won the PGA Championship as part of that run.

4. Harry Higgs barely missed out on assuring himself a return trip to the Masters. He tied for 14th in his first appearance, needing a top-12 to lock up another invitation. He shot a final-round 71. The top 12 and ties is one of the invitation criteria.

A Dissertation

Jon Rahm, we think, was kidding when he suggested earlier in the week that the only person who gets advice from Tiger Woods is Justin Thomas, who played two nine-hole practice rounds with Woods during the week. It is also well known that the two are good friends.

“I’ve asked him before,’’ Rahm said. “I remember asking him at East Lake the year he won (2018), on the putting green in the practice, “Hey man, any tips for Bermuda (grass)? Or this and that. He turned around said, “it’s all about feel,’’ and just kept going. I was like, “Cool, thank you.’

“I asked him at Albany once about chipping into the grain. “You just got to be shallow.’ OK. Meanwhile I turn around and J.T.’s there with him, and he’s getting a whole dissertation on what to do.’’

It appears that Rahm got an earful Sunday, and in a good way. Playing the final round together and well out of contention, they were seen chatting a good bit of the way, with plenty of smiles from both.

PGA Championship Countdown

For the third time, the PGA Championship follows the Masters, and the wait between major championships is much shorter. There are just 38 days until the first round of the PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where typically one of the best fields of the year assembles.

Aside from the 20 PGA of America club professionals who qualify, the PGA essentially takes each of the top 100 players in the world. It does not explicitly say so in its qualification criteria, but it often fills out its field by inviting those among the top 100 who have yet to qualify.

The tournament’s main qualification is the top 70 players from a running money list that begins before the previous year’s PGA and concludes two weeks prior. Past major champions for five years as well as PGA champions for life are also invited.

Southern Hills last held the championship in 2007 when Tiger Woods won his 13th major championship.

Social Matters

Tiger’s appreciation and his congrats to winner Scottie Scheffler:

The Masters Champions Dinner.:

Andrew “Beef’’ Johnston with his tribute to Tiger Woods.

Tiger’s interview in which he confirmed an Old Course tee time.

Next Up

From the pressure of the Masters to the laid-back vibe of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. It’s only a few hours away but the atmosphere is like being in another country at the RBC Heritage. Five of the top-10 ranked players in the world are entered, including Collin Morikawa, Cameron Smith, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas. Stewart Cink is the defending champion.

More 2022 Masters Coverage From Morning Read:

- Scheffler Wins Masters to Claim First Career Major
- Weekly Read: What's Next for Tiger Woods?
- McIlroy Leaves Augusta Happy At Last After Sunday 64
- Scheffler Aces His Major Test
- 'Rory Roars' Fill Augusta National as McIlroy Delights
- Tiger Woods Says He Intends to Play British Open at St. Andrews
- Woods Recognizes This Masters Was One of His Best Moments
- Final Payouts, Prize Money for Everyone in the Field
- Sports Illustrated's Best Photos From 2022 Masters