AUGUSTA, Ga. — It’s as if there are two different tournaments playing out for Tiger Woods: the one in which he could ridiculously contend for a sixth Masters championship and the one in which just walking the course might be worthy of a jacket ceremony of its own. The first version Woods has played before, and at 46, he’s here for it again, with the requisite juices flowing.
The second version is unprecedented, and Thursday afternoon, as he walked up the 18th fairway at Augusta National Golf Club with a hitch in his step, darned if it wasn’t more riveting. He has won 15 major championships and has long defined success in singular fashion: Either he hoists a trophy or he doesn’t. For a day, maybe for a week, that has shifted. When Woods was asked whether there was victory merely in doing what he did Thursday — shooting a steady, 1-under par 71 on a rebuilt right leg that now houses enough hardware to fill an aisle at Home Depot — his answer was swift: “Yes .”
“If you would have seen how my leg looked to where it’s at now,” Woods said. “The pictures, some of the guys know. They’ve seen the pictures, and they’ve come over the house. To see where I’ve been. To get from there to here,” and he chuckled, “was no easy task.”
Only Woods knows how his right leg felt after his round. Only Woods can imagine what it might feel like after three more loops around this undulating layout, where every stance seems to demand that one hip be cocked above the other. Only Woods knows the work that went into getting his body in the shape he needs to have it to compete here.
“People have no idea how hard it’s been,” he said.