Tiger Woods ends disappointing 2020 with unsatisfactory Masters title defense
Neither his two children nor his mother were waiting just past the 18th green to enthusiastically embrace a revived, triumphant Masters champion as they were in 2019.
Thousands of patrons weren’t at the ready to roaringly celebrate. And fellow winners of the green jacket weren’t lined up near the clubhouse to zealously congratulate an inspiring conquest.
Instead, the title defense of Tiger Woods ended in near silence.
Photos: Tiger's Sunday at the Masters
The five-time Masters champion closed with a 4-over-par 76, which tied his highest score ever in the Masters as a professional and included a 10 at the par-3 12th, his highest score ever recorded on any hole in his PGA Tour career. Despite finishing with four consecutive birdies, Woods finished the 84th Masters at 1-under 287 with rounds of 68-71-72-76.
About 50 people were around the 18th green and politely applauded as Woods knocked in a 16-foot putt for birdie. Instead of racing to hug his children, Woods slowly walked to the scoring area.
“I’ve hit a few too many shots than I wanted to today, and I will not have the chairman be putting the green jacket on me,” he said. “I’ll be passing it on.”
Woods’ final round wasn’t void of theater, both tragic and jubilant.
The highlight? He birdied the final four holes and five of his last six.
Unfortunately, this explosion followed an implosion that marked the lowlight of the week. For that, we head to the heart of Amen Corner, where the 2019 Masters leader Francisco Molinari and top contenders Tony Finau, Brooks Koepka and Ian Poulter dumped balls into Rae’s Creek that helped propel Woods to his fifth Masters title.
This year, Woods hit not one, not two, but three balls into Rae’s Creek and putted out for a 10. His tee shot spun back into the water, as did his next shot after taking his penalty drop. Hitting five, Woods found one of the two back bunkers. From an awkward lie, Wood skulled his sixth shot over the green into the water again. After taking a drop, he hit his eighth shot onto the back fringe and two-putted for a 10.
His previous worst score on any hole on the PGA Tour came in the 1997 Memorial when he made a 9 on the par-3 fourth hole in the third round. His previous worst score in the Masters was an 8 – on the eighth hole in round one in 1999 and on 15th hole in the second round in 2013.
“I committed to the wrong wind,” Woods said. “From there I hit a lot more shots and had a lot more experiences there in Rae’s Creek. This sport is awfully lonely sometimes. You have to fight it. No one is going to bring you off the mound or call in a sub. That’s what makes this game so unique and so difficult mentally. We’ve all been there. Unfortunately I’ve been there and you just have to turn around and figure out the next shot, and I was able to do that coming home.”
His caddie, Joe LaCava, told Woods that “you’ve got five green jackets and you made a 10 on the 12th hole. You got it all covered.”
Still, a year that started with so much promise ended with a thud. After all, Woods had won his record-tying 82nd PGA Tour title in Japan the previous fall, was the best player in the Presidents Cup in December and looked well suited to successfully defend a Masters title, make a run for a spot in the Tokyo Olympics and pursue placement on the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
Woods had only one top-10 in nine starts and didn’t taste Sunday contention after January. He likely will not play again until the 2021 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. In the two-month interim, he will train, test equipment, fulfill sponsorship obligations, attend to other duties associated with his foundation and relax and spend quality time with his family.
“Well, starting out the year, it was like any other year, but we all quickly realized that this year is unlike anything we’ve ever experienced,” Woods said, alluding to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’re lucky to have the opportunity to have our sport continue to go. I had a busy December and then the normal rampup to the West Coast swing and then all of a sudden it came to a halt.”
LaCava said his boss never got things rolling.
“He played well in San Diego and then shut it down and never got it un-tracked. A little disappointing. But it’s over and we look forward to 2021,” LaCava said.
Woods will turn his full attention and motivation to 2021 late in December and will eye the Masters, which is but five months away.
“It is normally nine months, and trust me, I know because I’ve had to deal with it, trying to go for four in a row (as he did in 2001) and all the media and dealing with all the different circumstances leading into it,” he said. “Hopefully if everything continues the way it is going right now, then we’re able to have this event in April.”
Tiger's 10 on No. 12, shot by shot
The 12th hole at Augusta National has made a mess of the greatest golfers over the years. It added perhaps its most famous name on Sunday.
Tiger Woods’ result at the iconic par 3 in the final round of the Masters Tournament was the worst single-hole performance in his PGA Tour career.
Were it not for a birdie on No. 18, he would’ve tied his highest single-round performance ever at Augusta. He shot 77 as an amateur in the third round in 1995. Sunday’s 76 ties his worst round as a professional; he also shot 76 to open the 2003 tournament.
The record for highest score on No. 12 is still 13 by Tom Weiskopf in 1980.
Here’s a shot-by-shot breakdown of Woods’ Sunday at No. 12:
Woods began with a 143-yard tee shot that landed in the second cut to the right of the bunker before rolling back into Rae’s Creek.
After a penalty stroke, his next swing, this time from the drop area from 56 yards, landed on the front side of the green but didn’t stick. It, too, spun backward, slowed in the second cut but, like the first shot, gained momentum until it found water.
After another penalty stroke, third time is the charm as Woods’ shot sailed over the green into the right bunker.
With his body at an awkward angle, his shot from the sand took one hop over the green and back into Rae’s Creek.
After another penalty and drop back in the bunker, Woods hit his ball onto the first cut behind the hole.
A left-to-right putt put Woods a foot from the cup.
A tap-in for 10.
- Will Cheney, Staff Writer