The few people hanging around the backside of the club house knew Tiger Woods was coming out of the parking lot because of the flurry of security elements moving into place. His caddie, Joe LaCava, had already dropped off Woods clubs in his car and was on his way to a golf cart. The people are bundled against the cold. Woods walked with a limp toward his car. He looked in pain, and the idea that he was willing to not limp in front of the cameras made his long, brutal Saturday feel more poignant. He wore a heavy outfit the last two days, after removing his mask.
Woods shot 78. The round looked bad. He grimaced more than before. The weather for his reconstructed leg was the worst possible, with howling winds blowing and the temperature dropping. He cracked a joke about it earlier in the week, but it didn't look funny in the setting sun.
It felt that way a little. The people realized that he didn't have a championship run in him. Not this year. He four-putted the hole. He three-putted four more. He couldn't read the greens. He has more time to heal and get stronger, so there were some flashes of what used to be. He was standing on the 12th tee trying to figure out the wind in Amen Corner. He talked to LaCava. The wind changed.
"Nine or wait it out?" LaCava asked.
Tiger aimed at the club. He rolled in his putt after sticking it on the green. He made a bogey on both 16 and 17 after he made a bogey on No. 13. There is a crowd around the final tee. The mood of the gallery wasn't the frenzy of a Sunday charge or the usual jockeying for a better view. If that makes sense, people were grateful for his recovery and the effort it took to get to the 54th hole of the Masters.
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A guy yelled "We love you!" at Tiger.
Woods hit a good drive on the left side of the fairway. He walked after the shot. A huge roar came up from the gallery, cheering for someone else at the 10th green. The roars were waiting for the rest of the field, not his tournament to win anymore. He kept walking and there was a roar behind him. The future of golf was rolling on this Saturday, the leaders all popular with people who love golf, who gather around card tables and throw money at Calcuttas, but the only golf legend in the world wanted to just finish this march.
Woods hit his second shot into the gallery, made a bad chip and then three-putted to end the day. He exhaled hard as he walked off the green.
He said after he got inside that it was like hitting a thousand putts on the greens. I just couldn't find it.
Even though he was playing for a moral victory, he only had 18 more holes to finish. He was asked what he hoped the people watching at home would take from his insistence on playing.
He said to never give up.
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It is odd to think of Tiger Woods as a guy with dreams. Goals, like hitting metrics in the gym, or having his range of motion get better by a tiny degree, are definitely ones. A dream is full of wonder and imagination. He is a private guy and his dreams are his own. There might be an answer to why he tried to play this week. The past three days, and Sunday, are just the beginning of something he sees for himself. Tiger Woods will leave this place as a winner.
He said that he fights each and every day. Each day has its own challenges for all of us. I wake up and start fighting again.