Tiger Woods’ 2024 Masters filled with special, hidden moments

Tiger Woods raises his hat to patrons at 2024 Masters

Tiger Woods waves to Masters patrons while walking up the 18th fairway on Sunday at Augusta National Golf Club.

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AUGUSTA, Ga. — Down in Amen Corner, you can’t move. Sweaty forearms touch and plastic cups clank as everyone collectively holds their breath as a 48-year-old golfer prepares to hit a 155-yard shot on the most famous hole of the most famous golf course in the world.

It’s noon on Masters Sunday, more than two hours before the tournament leaders tee off. The sun looks down from a cloudless sky as thousands of patrons jockey for position as Tiger Woods walks to the par-3 12th tee.

He tips his hat to the gallery, and they erupt. Matt Dobbs looks at his buddy, Sam Baxter. “Pretty cool,” he says. They nod in agreement. Seconds later, looking on, Dobbs shakes his head from side to side one more time, almost in a state of disbelief.

Patrons have no control over Woods’ ball down here, although some might kill for that superpower. Cigar smoke lingers in the air. Woods takes a swing. Thwack!

“He’s not even in contention, but it’s just fun to be able to watch,” Baxter says. “He’s Tiger Woods.”

Tiger Woods tees off on the 12th hole during the final round of the 2024 Masters. Getty Images

Woods is not a ceremonial golfer. He doesn’t want to be — at least not yet — but golf fans are also too smart to think this will last forever, especially with his injury history and surgeries. Of course, he still might contend here some year, but he also said he aches and is in pain every day. It takes several hours for him just to prepare to play golf, and cold-weather rounds don’t help. But if you didn’t find the special moments that followed Woods at this week’s Masters, perhaps you weren’t looking hard enough.

Back in 2019 and 2005 and 2002 and 2001 and 1997, there were other victories, the real ones, were you get jackets and trophies and host a fancy dinner the next year. Now he walks slower and the special moments are different.

In the second round he shot an even-par 72 in brutal conditions to cap a 23-hole Friday. Younger, sharper, recent major champs struggled to keep it in the 70s. Woods battled and beat the scoring average by two full shots — a man who entered the week having not played more than 30 holes of competitive golf this year. He made the weekend, setting the Masters record for consecutive cuts made (24).

“There’s a lot of knowledge that goes into understanding how to play [here],” Woods said. “And, granted, every tee box has been changed since the first time I played. Every green has been changed, but the overall configuration of how they roll and how they move and the angles you take, that hasn’t changed. That’s the neat thing about this. I can still go through the mental Rolodex and bring out a few putts from the ’90s that still move generally in that direction and the effect that Rae’s Creek has on certain shots and putts.”

Then there was Woods on the range with his son, Charlie, five years removed from their famous embrace after Dad won the 2019 Masters, which was 22 years after Tiger did the same with his dad, Earl, after he won his first. Charlie, whose high school team won a state championship last year, was holding an alignment stick for his father on Sunday morning. Later on, Charlie followed Woods out on the course. Years ago, in some of his darkest injury days, Woods worried his kids would only know him as the “YouTube golfer,” since it wasn’t often they’d seen him healthy enough for tournaments. Now Charlie was following along watching it all, and plenty old enough to remember.

And then there was Woods’ playing partner. An hour after he was with Charlie on the range, at 9:45 a.m., Woods teed off with Neal Shipley, a fifth-year senior at Ohio State and the only amateur to make the weekend. Shipley’s sponsored by Nicklaus Companies, so the Golden Bear patch on his chest ironically represented the only person to have more major titles than his playing partner.

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Woods played here as an amateur twice, staying in the Crow’s Nest and stepping out to watch Sam Snead, Byron Nelson and Gene Sarazen kick off the event as honorary starters, a gig he’ll hold someday. And on Sunday, Woods and Shipley talked a lot, a surprising revelation for a golfer who has been so famously stone-cold between the ropes he’d hardly muster a word to playing partners. Sure, a Woods in contention is different than the one who shot 82-77 over the weekend — last among players to make the cut — but a particularly chatty Woods isn’t common either.

Tony Finau played with Woods in the final grouping of that 2019 Masters. Finau once said he was confused by the awkward silence off the 1st tee, so he decided to break the ice.

“So I’m like, ‘Hey, Tiger, how’s the kids?'” Finau said. “And he’s like, ‘Oh, they’re doing fine.’ And he just laser-eyed, straight down the fairway and just kept on walking.”

Shipley said they talked about golf, Charlie and “normal things.”

“He was great to me all day,” Shipley said. “Couldn’t be more appreciative of him just being awesome today, and it was just really cool to be around him and just the attention he gets and the roars.”

But perhaps that final special moment wasn’t so hidden after all. Gratitude for Woods has always been there. But maybe now it’s just a little easier to spot. Or maybe it means a little more.

Woods walks carefully and crouches gingerly and you won’t see that quick, confident grab of a ball out of the bottom of the cup like he used to, but he’s still the only one out here who can cause a frenzy and get gallery guards to yell “No running!” to those shuffling up to a tee to get a better look, like what happened on the 10th tee on Sunday.

You saw the appreciation for him on the 12th hole, when he lifted his cap, and again when he finished, walking up to the 18th green to a rousing ovation and then nearly chipping in for a final birdie. Sam Baxter, that fan at the 12th hole, almost choked up talking about what Woods has meant to the game. On the 7th, after Woods buried an approach in a bunker, the crowd groaned. When he nearly holed the next shot, leaving a tap-in for par, a man hugged his girlfriend. On the 10th, a dad walked with his young son, trying to explain Woods’ significance to the game.

“This tournament has meant so much to me in my life and my family,” Woods said on Tuesday. “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.”

Woods’ media availability on Sunday was brief, just five quick questions — “it was a good week all around,” he said — and then we was gone, escorted back through the clubhouse by his agent and three security guards. About an hour later, a half-dozen guys who grew up idolizing Woods teed off, hoping to win the Masters.

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