Another record at Augusta is not enough for Tiger Woods; he wants more

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AUGUSTA, Ga. — The morning light framed the picture perfectly. Tiger Woods, standing on the 14 tee with the iconic 13 green at Augusta National Golf Club in the background. It was a scene that could have occurred only under these circumstances — an unfinished round because of a weather delay Thursday, an early morning start Friday — but it was one that nonetheless exuded the inexplicable thing about Augusta that Woods would later describe as “aura” and “mystique.”

With the patrons still trickling onto the grounds, the crowd around Woods at this corner of the property that usually resembles a stadium tour felt more like an intimate acoustic session. The chirping of the morning birds colored the silent air before the sound of Woods’ driver cut through it. At 7:50 a.m. Woods was off and the grind had just begun.

By the time it was over — nearly 10 hours and 23 holes later — Woods had made history. He finished at 1 over and made the cut for a record 24th consecutive Masters. When asked about it after his second round was over, however, the 15-time major winner was uninterested in basking in history.

“It means I have a chance going into the weekend, I’m here,” Woods said of his record. “I have a chance to win the golf tournament. I don’t know if they’re all going to finish today, but I’m done. I got my two rounds in. Just need some food and some caffeine and I’ll be good to go.”

If it seems like you’ve heard that kind of sentiment from Woods before, it’s because you have. At the few tournaments where Woods tees it up these days, the question always comes at some point: “Do you feel like you can win this?”

Woods sometimes smiles, sometimes doesn’t, but he always says some version of what he said this Tuesday.

“If everything comes together,” Woods said. “I think I can get one more.”

Call it cliché, delusion or simply belief, but Woods’ repetitiveness is simply a manifestation of perhaps his most dominant trait: He has never been satisfied.

It’s what led him to win this tournament at 21 years old, be the most dominant golfer ever and win 15 majors — including the one here in 2019. And it’s what has led him here at age 48 — with countless surgeries and injuries on his resume — to still show up and play believing he can not only compete but win.

“I’ve always loved playing here, I’ve been able to play here since I was 19 years old,” Woods said. “It’s one of the honors I don’t take lightly, being able to compete.”

On Friday, Woods was facing a challenging battle, but, despite plenty of ups and downs, compete he did. Woods started the day 1 over par and finished it 1 over par. His score underlined the reality that Woods is living. After 94 shots in one day, he was back where he started. That in itself was a victory.

“I’m tired. I’ve been out for a while, competing, grinding,” Woods said. “It’s been a long 23 holes, a long day. But Lance and I really did some good fighting today, and we’ve got a chance.”

For the second day in a row, Woods hit 11 of 14 fairways. It didn’t always matter. The 14th hole — which he played twice Thursday — haunted him. His shot in the early morning was chunked short of the green and the one in the afternoon was pulled long. Both resulted in bogeys.

And yet there was always a bounce back looming. He followed up back-to-back-bogeys on the fourth and fifth holes with a birdie on the sixth. And after another bogey on the seventh hole, he birdied the eighth.

His most important fairway came in the afternoon on the iconic 15th hole, where memories of past championships have often involved a red-clad Woods. On Friday, he was wearing a more muted color from his new clothing brand on his chest, signaling a new era of sorts but the same, aggressive, dissatisfied Tiger underneath.

With what felt like a 2-club wind blowing into his face, Woods didn’t hesitate, nor did he think about what could happen if he landed in the water — only 2 shots off the cut line. From 258 yards out, he pulled out a fairway wood and compressed the ball so cleanly it made the patrons gasp. Those near the green saw the final product: a high ball flight that pitched into the middle of the green, rolled out a couple of feet and stopped pin high.

The shot didn’t just look like vintage Tiger. It was vintage Tiger. He didn’t play it safe and it paid off. He might have been exhausted but he was still not satisfied.

After playing only 23 holes of competitive golf this calendar year, Woods’ game carried plenty of rust. Some approach shots weren’t as sharp. But, though his putting failed him at times, when he needed to get up and down around the green, Woods’ hands came alive.

“A lot of those chip shots I was able to get up and down because I left it in the perfect spot,” Woods said. “And that’s understanding how to play this golf course.”

Woods’ sheer talent and experience is nowhere near as valuable elsewhere as it is here. The physical toll on his body, the amount of steel in his 6-foot-1 frame, his age — they’re all obstacles he could either succumb to or accept and try to overcome.

Despite not playing many tournaments, Woods has continued to do the latter. Whether you take a broad view of his career since that seemingly impossible win five years ago or you look closely, Woods’ relentlessness is evident, and his fight is palpable.

Throughout the day Friday, he treated every shot with the weight it required.

Even as both of his playing partners had finished on 18, Woods stood over his 5-foot par putt with great care. He had all but guaranteed himself a made cut, but he didn’t want to lose another shot. The gusts of wind whipped the sand from the bunkers into his face, forcing him to back off and reset. He then stepped up and made it. A standing ovation ensued.

“As if you needed another record, Tiger!” one patron yelled out among the crowd. “As if you needed another one!”

Friday was yet another reminder. Woods doesn’t need any of this; he simply wants it.

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