On Tiger Woods, and the fight that none of us likes to face   

Tiger Woods stands on tee Tuesday at 2024 Masters

Tiger Woods on Tuesday at the Masters.

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AUGUSTA, Ga. — His golf glove was spilling out of his back pocket. 

Out of all that Tiger Woods talked of Tuesday here — the Masters that he’s two days away from playing in for the 26th time, the Augusta National Golf Club course where he’ll do it upon, and other items that orbit him — maybe that should speak best to his state of affairs. 

Of the inevitable fight that none of us likes to face. 

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Our apologies for the gravitas so early in the week. So let’s start over. Let’s begin things a bit lighter. Woods did, from the opening tip with his 11 a.m. session with reporters and an ANGC green jacket who served as moderator. It was the latter who had introduced him with a look back, to 2019, when he memorably won the Masters for a fifth time. Then, Woods ended Thursday outside of the top 10, which he was reminded of as being rare. In fact, only one other person had rallied as such in the previous 20 years, he was told. Him. He laughed. 

“What a testament …” the moderator started. 

“Thank you for telling me I started outside the top 10,” Woods cracked. 

He had other lines. He joked about his teenage son and teenage golfer, Charlie. Had the younger Woods played with dad at Augusta recently? He hadn’t. He wanted to stay home, in fact, last week when Tiger played on a scouting mission — imagine having that choice — but should Charlie ever return, he’d no longer be playing from the forward member tees with his length now. “He’s got to come back there with us,” Tiger said. Woods also joked after being asked about announcer Verne Lundquist working his final Masters and whether he’d heard his call on his chip-in during the 2005 Masters. “I’ve heard that a couple times,” he said, smiling. 

But yeah, then they asked what hurts.  

How much time you got? 

How much space we have? Even here, upon the world wide web, there may not be enough to list all that has ailed him, but just know most of it still does, and all of that forced him to skip last month’s Players Championship. It’ll pain him when he makes the call to play future events. It’ll pain him this week. What will irritate him at slope-heavy Augusta? 

Every shot not on a tee box, he quipped.

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Here, things are most complicated. 

Consider these back-and-forths

Why play this week, where he’ll attempt to set the record for consecutive Masters cuts made at 24? 

“Well, this tournament has meant so much to me in my life and my family,” Woods said. “I think I’ve been playing here for, what, 29 years now. It was the ultimate to be able to stay in the Crow’s Nest and to watch Byron [Nelson] and Sam [Snead] and Gene [Sarazen] tee off on the 1st hole.

“It’s been a part of my life to have won here as my first major as a pro. Hugging my dad, as you saw; then a full circle in 2019 to hug my son.

“It has meant a lot to my family. It’s meant a lot to me. I always want to keep playing in this. And today I got a chance to play with Fred [Couples]. And Fred’s been here a very long time, and we’re joking that he’s the oldest person ever to make a cut, and I think he can do it again this year.

“So it’s great. I mean, that’s the neat thing about this golf course, and it’s the only major we play on the same site, the same venue, each and every year, and we get to tell stories and catch up with friends and for me get a chance to catch up with idols and the people that I looked up to my entire life.”

Why prepare yourself all the other weeks?

“I love golf,” Woods said. “I do. I’ve always loved it. I played other sports growing up, but I just have always loved this sport. I love to compete.

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“And to be able to have the love I have for the game and the love for competition be intertwined, I think that’s one of the reasons why I’ve had a successful career. I just love doing the work. I love logging the time in, and I love preparing. I love competing, and I love that feeling when everything’s on fire with a chance to win and you either do or you don’t.

Why golf itself?

“Well, it’s been my life,” Woods said. “I started playing at 9 months; so I’ve done it pretty much my entire life. I played my first tournament when I was five. I have been playing tournament golf and playing golf around the world, not just here in the United States but around the world; it’s allowed me to see places that I don’t think that I would ever have gotten a chance to see, people that I’ve got a chance to meet all around the world. The generational connectivity with the sport, right.

“So, as I said, with watching Sam and Gene and Byron tee off, two years later to watch them drinking my milkshakes, to play practice rounds with Fred and Raymond [Floyd], Seve [Ballesteros] over the years, those are — and Jack [Nicklaus] and Arnold [Palmer], those are memories that I’ll have for a lifetime. And it’s all because of this sport.”

So when do you stop?

Consider your own vocation, no matter where you are on the timeline. You dream of it. You work at it. You finally live it. 

And then It just ends? 

And then you just come back once a year to your accounting or writing job, and do some honorary math or pen a ceremonial sentence?

Hell no! 

Woods doesn’t want to think about it, either. 

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“Curious, you spoke about obviously your reverence for Augusta National, and Jack back in the day would always talk about how he would resist to be a ceremonial golfer. And I just wonder for yourself, as the physical stuff has mounted and the challenges have come, where are you in that thought of, you know, how — where your kind of golfing competition mortality is, if you will, for this place? And have you thought about being one of those starters down the line on the Thursday morning and that kind of thing?”

“No, no,” Woods said. 

“Maybe not that far?”

“No, I have not thought about being a starter here, no,” he said.

“In a more immediate sense, in terms of playing, when you maybe don’t think that all things can come together and you can win as you do right now?”

“Well, I still think they can. So I don’t know when that day is, when that day comes, but I still think that I can. I haven’t got to that point where I don’t think I can.”

Understandably so. By all accounts, Woods still gets it around. Will Zalatoris informed that Woods was outdriving him on Monday during a practice round. 

Then again, longtime friend Notah Begay informed that Woods worries about his mobility. And how his ankle affects other parts of him. There are concerns of just getting around. 

Should he stop?

Then again, can he stop?

Does he know how to stop?

It’ll be his call, of course. It’ll be a curious one to watch. 

And today his glove is in his back pocket. 

Ready to play. 

Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.

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