Last Tuesday, Tiger Woods was asked by a reporter, “When you’re playing this course does it ever cross your mind, ‘This could be the last time’?” He immediately responded, “Yes, it has.”
The referenced course was Augusta National, home of the Masters, which Woods has won five times, most recently just four years ago. At 47, he’s still nearly four years younger than Phil Mickelson was when Lefty won a major, the PGA Championship, in 2021. Were Woods to go on and win the Masters this past weekend, he would have been the oldest player to earn a green jacket, but only by about a year. Jack Nicklaus holds that record with his victory at the 1986 Masters, when he was 46.
Of course, the other record held by Nicklaus that Woods wants is the one for most PGA Tour majors. What was once seen as inevitable, Woods almost certainly will not pass The Golden Bear, who has 18 major championships to Woods’s 15. Woods eventually withdrew from the 2023 Masters because of a foot injury, and it would be pretty unbelievable if he even got to 16, especially after learning what golfer Jason Day knows about the toll a major tournament takes on the body of Tiger Woods.
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“I was talking to him at the end of last year,” Day said after Woods withdrew from the Masters for then unknown reasons, per Golf.com. “He was saying the reason why he pulled out of the PGA [in 2022] was a screw went through the skin on Saturday or whatever it was. I don’t know how bad it is this time.”
Woods underwent major emergency surgery after a 2020 car accident caused multiple open fractures to his right leg. Amputation was deliberated over, he later said. A rod was placed in his right leg to stabilize it, along with other screws and pins. His left leg was also injured in the single-car crash, which was caused in part because Woods was speeding.
Woods had been battling plantar fasciitis in his right foot in the run-up to the Masters this year, and on Twitter he said the condition was the cause of his withdrawal on Sunday after appearing to be in significant pain while playing the previous day.
“Woods resumed that round Saturday morning in raw, wet and windy conditions, and though he managed to sign for a 73, at times he was limping so badly he looked as if he was walking barefoot on broken glass,” wrote Golf.com.
Prior to the tournament, Woods’s caddie, Joe LaCava, told the New York Post, that the golfer’s swing was in good shape, but the only reason Woods was putting on his golf cleats last week was because he felt as though he had to play the Masters, had to walk the 18 holes at Augusta up to four times, which proved impossible, particularly in the rain and cold over the weekend.
“It wasn’t the perfect conditions for him to be able to at least get through the round. It’s disappointing, but that’s just kind of, I think, where we’re at with how his body is right now,” said Day. “You can all see how he’s feeling on TV. I don’t know what he’s feeling internally, how bad it is.”
If the 2023 Masters Tournament turns out to be Woods’s last, we’ll still have plenty of thrilling memories to look back upon. There are so many it would be hard to choose a favorite.
Though I’m not the biggest golf fan, I’ll offer up this one, in part because I did watch it live with my dad, as I have with quite a few Masters Tournaments. And though by 2005 Tiger was already “Tiger,” we learned that year he still had the ability to amaze us in new ways. I was as mind-blown as commentator Verne Lundquist was in this iconic clip:
I just wish Woods landed that high-five with his caddie as smoothly as he drained that chip shot.
But, hey, nobody’s perfect. Not even Tiger.