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AUGUSTA, Ga. — Tiger Woods’s final day of preparation for the 2022 Masters was typical of the laid-back vibe on the eve of the tournament, when the goal is to play a bit of golf, but not an excessive amount of — simply enough to remain loose for Thursday’s first round.
With that in mind, Woods played nine holes along with his preferred practice partners, his Florida neighbor Justin Thomas, whom Woods considers a bit of brother, and Fred Couples, who has at times has served as something of an enormous brother to Woods.
Befitting the atmosphere, the group smiled frequently thorough the round, although Couples, 62, the 1992 Masters champion, noticed a slight change in Woods’s demeanor since playing practice rounds with him earlier within the week.
“He was a bit of more serious; he’s on the brink of roll,” Couples said. “The primary practice round I played with him on Monday we had each flown in that day and we were laughing quite a bit. He was lighter. Today, he and Justin were pretty serious. They’re preparing.”
Fans lining the holes that the Woods group played Wednesday alternatively cheered Woods, the five-time Masters champion, on the tees and within the fairways and remained quiet as they almost reverentially watched him practice his putting from different spots on each green.
Couples said Woods, who had a more pronounced limp on Wednesday than on any of the opposite days he practiced at Augusta National, gave the impression to be swinging the club higher than some other day this week. Woods’s surgically rebuilt right leg, nevertheless, is clearly causing him some pain.
“The pain is there, but he’s handled that before,” Couples said. “By way of his swing, I feel he’s a bit of sharper, a bit of higher.”
Couples added that he continues to be mesmerized that Woods is back on the Masters so quickly after his horrific automobile crash on Feb. 23, 2021.
“It’s a miraculous thing, I mean, 14 months ago I’m bawling like a baby on daily basis anxious about him,” he said. “And now you’re paired with him and he looks strong. He’s hitting it plenty far enough to play this course, and he plays this course so well. He knows what to do here. I feel it’s amazing for him to be out here.”