AUGUSTA, Ga. — Tiger Woods stood in the fantastic sunlight of a Georgia spring one afternoon this past week, a lingering dose of heat before the frigid, hellish hours ahead.
“Plenty of treatments, numerous ice, numerous ice baths, just principally freezing myself to death,” Woods said of his plans before his next tee shot at Augusta National Golf Club. “That’s just a part of the deal.”
Rare is the athlete whose medical history has been more scrutinized and documented — by doctors, in addition to by loads of armchair experts in tournament galleries, living rooms and the news media — over the a long time. But with Woods pursuing his sixth Masters Tournament title not even 14 months after a automobile wreck made a leg amputation a possibility, the 46-year-old golfer’s recuperation regimen has been more essential than any read of any green.
The weekend, though, appears to be proving its limitations.
Woods shot a spectacular 71 on Thursday and a 74 on Friday. Taken together, the rounds, up and down as they were, were remarkable showings of the ferocity and grit that helped Woods to dominate his sport for years. But those pre-cut outings were expected to be the least taxing.
On Saturday, he posted a 78, the worst Masters round of his profession. He went bogey or worse on seven holes, including the last three, and headed into Sunday’s final round at seven over par.
By sundown on Saturday, after a round dogged by wind and poor putting, it was nearly certain that the person who arrived at Augusta expecting to be each a contender on Sunday and a test case for the capabilities of a speedy rehabilitation would only be the latter.
To Woods, the priority throughout the week was never his golfing skill. As a substitute, he openly frightened in regards to the wear and tear on a body that enjoyed its easiest days way back.
Asked Saturday how the physical challenge had evolved over the tournament, he replied: “It hasn’t modified. It’s been hard.”
He and his team have spent the hours between rounds trying to realize dueling ambitions: reducing the swelling that comes with traipsing across the topographical nightmare that’s Augusta, and keeping Woods’s surgically rebuilt limb “mobile and warmed up, activated and explosive for the following day,” as he put it at considered one of his meetings with reporters in Augusta.
“Most sports, for those who’re not feeling excellent, you bought a teammate to pass it off to, they usually can form of shoulder the load, or in football, sooner or later every week,” Woods said. “Here we’ve got 4 straight days, and there’s no one which’s going to shoulder the load besides me. I’ve got to work out a technique to do it.”
In response to Woods, he has not taken a break day from his rehabilitation efforts since he emerged from the three months in bed that followed his one-car wreck near Los Angeles in February 2021. The crash left him with open fractures of the tibia and the fibula in his right leg, and it led surgeons so as to add rods, plates and screws to his leg.
The following recovery has required trade-offs and gambles and, in something that is just not latest for Woods, unshakable confidence in his own talents, thrown off as they is perhaps.
Some changes appear somewhat easier to just accept than others, like latest shoes to assist with stability on the course. But experts have also developed protocols for before and after rounds — “after I’m going ahead and break it on the market, they go ahead and repair it at night,” Woods said on Friday — which have dramatically expanded the timeline that comes with playing.
Those approaches, which can stretch for hours, have left Woods with less time for, say, hitting a thousand balls a day and refining, again, the nuances of his game.
“It gets agonizing and teasing because of easy things that I might normally just go do that will take now a pair hours here and a pair hours there to prep after which wind down,” he said. “So, activity time, to do what I would like to do, it adds more time on each side of it.”
The goal, he has said, was to accumulate the stamina that powered him and each other winner at Augusta, to present enough relief to make competitive golf more of a possibility than a pipe dream.
However the strategies can only dull, not extinguish, the pain, which Woods said is present “each and daily.”
He insists, though, that pain is just not an issue. By his account, he didn’t have any unexpected physical setbacks in his first days back at Augusta. But he has acknowledged that every part weaves together.
“I expected to be sore and never feel my best, obviously,” Woods said on Friday. “It’s the mixture. I can walk this golf course — I can placed on tennis shoes and go for a walk, that’s not an issue. But going ballistically at shots and hitting shot shapes off of uneven lies, that puts an entire latest challenge to it.”
He soon trudged off, presumably for one more night of ice.