Tiger Woods accepted on Sunday he is finished as a full-time golfer but revealed that he will play in the Open Championship at St Andrews this summer. Woods’ weekend struggles at the Masters where he shot two 78s – his worst rounds at Augusta – confirmed to the 15-time Major champion that the injuries he sustained in a car crash 14 months ago mean he will be physically unable to play regularly at top level.
He is uncertain if he will compete in the next Major – the USPGA at Southern Hills next month. But the announcement that he will play in the 150th Open in July is a huge boost for the event with his presence in the Masters field drawing record viewing figures for the event in the USA.
“I won’t be playing a full schedule ever again. It will just be the big events,” said Woods. “I don’t know if I will play Southern Hills but I am looking forward to St Andrews. That is something that is near and dear to my heart. I’ve won two Opens there.
“It’s the home of golf and it’s my favourite golf course in the world. I will be there for that one but anything in between I don’t know. I will try to get ready for Southern Hills and see what this body will let me do.”
Woods literally limped over the Masters finish line on Sunday, bending like Groucho Marx to climb the last hill to the 18th green. He was finishing before the final group of Scottie Scheffler and Cam Smith had even started and going backwards through the field.
Yet to listen to the noise as he approached the end of a momentous four-day journey you might have thought he had just won his sixth Green Jacket. He had used a driver for much of his final round as a walking aid but, whatever the pain level, was too proud to use it for the last emotive curtain call as the thousands shoehorned around the green rose in acclaim for the 46-year-old who made it back against all odds.
There have been quieter ovations for Masters winners. It had been the same all round with the patrons cheering Woods for his fortitude in making it back to play another Masters rather than his golf.
There wasn’t much golf-wise to celebrate – just a single birdie at the second hole fashioned from a 335-yard drive – but they celebrated anyway at him just being there. “Thankyou Tiger,” many called out, just grateful to have seen him walking the fairways again.
His daughter Sam, following him around in red leggings to match her dad’s famous Sunday shirt, must have swelled with pride. Amongst the hordes moving around Augusta National in his wake was also a thickset gentleman in replica golf kit who looked just like Bryson DeChambeau. It was Bryson DeChambeau. The World No 19 missed the cut but he wasn’t about to miss Woods back at Augusta on a Sunday.
On Saturday night there was a brief moment of doubt whether he would even be there. He looked as much of a wreck as the car he turned over at 85mph in California after his third round slog. But that thought quickly receded. This is Tiger Woods. Giving up is not in his vocabulary.
His goals had been gradually downgraded through the tournament. Having broken par incredibly in the first round he was talking about winning. Then as it wore on to getting into contention for a back nine charge and finally to making level par for the tournament. He missed that last one by 13 shots in the end.
But to have made the cut and earned the right to his ovations yesterday was, in its own way, his Green Jacket. “I’m thankful just to get to this point, I truly am,” said Woods. “Just to be able to play, and not only just to play, but put up a good first round… I got myself there.
“I don’t quite have the endurance that I would like to have had, but as of a few weeks ago, I didn’t even know if I was going to play in this event. It’s been a tough road, and one that I’m very thankful to have the opportunity to be able to grind through it.”
For once Woods, the ultimate competitor, realised that taking part was the winning for him with his presence carrying a message to his millions of fans worldwide. “Never give up. Always chase after your dreams. And I fight each and every day,” said Woods. “Each and every day is a challenge. Each and every day presents its own different challenges for all of us. I wake up and start the fight all over again.”