Tiger Woods’s final day of preparation for the 2022 Masters was typical of the laid-back vibe on the eve of the tournament, when the goal is to play a little golf, but not too much — just enough to stay loose for Thursday’s first round.
With that in mind, Woods played nine holes with his preferred practice partners, his Florida neighbor Justin Thomas, whom Woods considers a little brother, and Fred Couples, who has at times served as something of a big brother to Woods.
Befitting the atmosphere, the group smiled regularly thorough the round, although Couples, 62, the 1992 Masters champion, noticed a slight change in Woods’s demeanor since playing practice rounds with him earlier in the week.
“He was a little more serious; he’s getting ready to roll,” Couples said. “The first practice round I played with him on Monday we had both flown in that day and we were laughing a lot. He was lighter. Today, he and Justin were pretty serious. They’re getting ready.”
Fans lining the holes that the Woods group played Wednesday, alternatively cheered Woods, the five-time Masters champion, on the tees and in the fairways and remained quiet as they almost reverentially watched him practice his putting from different spots on each green.
Couples said Woods, who had a more pronounced limp on Wednesday than on any of the other days he practiced at Augusta National, appeared to be swinging the club better than any other day this week. Woods’s surgically rebuilt right leg, however, is clearly causing him some pain.
“The pain is there, but he’s dealt with that before,” Couples said. “In terms of his swing, I think he’s a little sharper, a little better.”
Couples added that he continues to be mesmerized that Woods is back at the Masters so quickly after his horrific car crash on Feb. 23, 2021.
“It’s a miraculous thing, I mean, 14 months ago I’m bawling like a baby every day worried about him,” he said. “And now you’re paired with him and he looks strong. He’s hitting it plenty far enough to play this course, and he plays this course so well. He knows what to do here. I think it’s amazing for him to be out here.”