Tiger Woods will rest up and regroup after 'disappointing' Masters week

Michael Madrid/USA TODAY Sports

Tiger Woods will rest up and regroup after 'disappointing' Masters week

PGA Tour

Tiger Woods will rest up and regroup after 'disappointing' Masters week

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Tiger Woods said it was neat to hear the roars at the Masters again, echoing throughout Augusta National. He was expecting plenty of noise on the back nine Sunday.

The roars he was describing weren’t for him. Woods had just shot 3-under 69 in the final round to finish at 1 over. Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy were just getting started, Reed at 14 under and McIlroy three shots back. Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm and Rickie Fowler were in the mix, too.

For all the progress Woods made in the Florida Swing, four rounds at Augusta showed he has a long way to go if he hopes to again contend with the best players in the game at a major championship.

After a stretch of five tournaments in two months, Woods said he plans to take three or four weeks off before trying to get back on their level.

“I didn’t hit my irons as good as I needed to for this particular week,” Woods said. “You miss it just a touch here and it gets magnified.”

Woods fought hard to make the cut and knew he needed to go low Saturday to have a prayer. The course was gettable. McIlroy made five birdies and an eagle to shoot 7-under 65. Reed made four birdies and two eagles, both on the back nine. They were confident and on top of their games, fearlessly attacking the course. Woods bogeyed his first two holes, made a lot of mistakes and tried to figure out what was wrong with his irons. He had to play defense.

The brightest young stars in golf were competing in a thrilling shootout and Woods, 42, simply couldn’t hang.

“Just could not convert with my irons,” Woods said. “I struggled with controlling the shape. Can’t control the shape, can’t control the distance. And it was one of those disappointing weeks in that regard.”

It didn’t matter that Woods was 18 shots off the lead Sunday. Fans packed the first tee box to watch him begin his final round of the Masters anyway.

Then they followed, playing fast and loose with Augusta National’s no-running policy in order to get a better vantage point.

Among the followers were Justin and Stephen Seitz. Justin, 29, attended his first Masters in 2008 and Stephen, 26, in 2011. Their grandfather, William Seitz, is from Augusta and obtained two Masters badges after serving in World War II. Justin and Stephen live in Gainesville, Fla., where they each graduated from the University of Florida, and the family takes turns attending on different days each year.

Based on what Stephen saw in person at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and what they both saw on TV at the Valspar Championship, they thought this might be the year they got to see Woods in the final pairing on Sunday. They planned to follow him all day Friday, but veered off for a few holes after Woods made double bogey at the par-4 fifth hole in Round 2. They felt “pretty deflated.”

“I think my expectations were too high,” Justin said Sunday, as he watched Woods play the seventh. “I’m a physical therapist, so the fact that he’s come back from this fusion and looks good … that’s incredible that he made the cut and he’s still out there. But we want to hold on to the Tiger of old, and we were just hoping he’d be right there in the mix on Sunday.”

Three straight top-12 finishes over the past six weeks brought back so many memories of Woods’ prime. Once again, the golf world revolved around one man in the days leading up to the Masters.

It wasn’t an illusion. Woods had the putter rolling, he was hitting the ball unreasonable distances for a man of his age and medical history, and he was routinely finding the center of the green with his irons. He was better than most of the field on those courses.

It’s just that center of the green isn’t good enough at Augusta National, a course which identifies a player in total command of his faculties better than any in the world. Woods seemed to finally figure something out on the back nine Sunday with his first eagle of the week, at 15, and two birdies, but he closed with a three-putt bogey on 18.

Woods had plenty of support from the fans and his team to carry him through, including girlfriend Erica Herman, who followed on-course for much of the week and showed up on-brand Sunday in a black jacket, black leggings and red, high-top Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars.

Woods can still win this year, and he’ll fare better on weeks when par is a good score and a player can grind his way into contention.  For now, he plans to put the clubs in the closet and regroup for a while.

“The run-up to this event is pretty hard and pretty grueling,” Woods said. “I push myself pretty hard to get ready and I peaked at it four times over the course of my career, and it’s tiring.”

If this comeback has proved anything, it’s that fans aren’t tired of Woods. They’re desperate to see him win another major. Maybe sometime in the not-so-distant future, they’ll get their wish.

Woods is definitely back. There’s no question about that. But he was gone for two years while Reed and Spieth and McIlroy and the rest of the game carried on in his absence.

Now, after his first Masters appearance since 2015, we know he still has a lot of catching up to do.

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