With Masters on horizon, Tiger Woods remains a work in progress

Jay Busbee
·3-min read

Here’s what we do know: Tiger Woods will be at Augusta on Tuesday night of the Masters, hosting a very different Champions Dinner. How long will he stay after that? Who knows?

Woods, who finished up four rounds at the no-cut Zozo Championship in a style that could generously be termed “uneven,” is just two weeks away from defending another title — the one he won in Augusta back in April 2019 — and it’s all but impossible to project how he’ll do.

Woods won this event last year when it was in Japan; because of the pandemic, the Zozo took place at Sherwood Country Club in California. That should have been good news for Woods; he’d won there five times when it hosted his foundation’s tournament. Not so. Woods began Thursday by bogeying-or-worse three of the course’s par 5s, the first time he’d ever done that. It was part of an ugly opening-round 76 that left him within one stroke of the bottom of the leaderboard.

Then came Friday, and all sins were forgiven. Woods fired a beautiful 66, the best round-to-round turnaround of his entire career. Everything was working for him then, and suddenly the thought of Woods competing at Augusta once again started dancing into people’s minds.

Not so fast. Woods struggled again on Saturday, neatly splitting the difference between the first two days with a 71. The highlight — maybe the lone highlight — was this gem of a par save through a tree:

Which brings us around to Sunday. Woods was grouped with Phil Mickelson, the 38th time the old rivals have played together. (They were joined by Adam Long, who offered up a funny happy-to-be-here tweet.)

The day was another to forget — four birdies, four bogeys, one double for a +2 round and a one-under finish. On a leaderboard where the winner and his closest pursuers will be lower than -20, that’s not even close to good enough.

What does this mean for Augusta? Well, Woods certainly doesn’t appear to be anywhere close to a level where he can compete with the Bryson DeChambeaus and Jon Rahms of the world. He could find something in himself in the next few weeks, of course, and he left open the door to playing in the Vivint Houston Open next week if he feels his game needs more work. But at the moment, Woods will be struggling to keep the leaders at Augusta in sight, to say nothing of in control.

As for that Champions Dinner? It’ll play out unlike any before 2020, Woods said. “We’re not going to have it upstairs [in the Augusta National clubhouse, its traditional spot],” Woods said. “I think we’re going to have it downstairs where there’s more room so we can all be socially distant.”

Woods also noted that he doesn’t expect many of the older champions — who fall squarely in the COVID higher-risk group — to attend. But for those who do show up, they’ll be treated to Woods’ preferred meal: steak and chicken fajitas, sushi and sashimi, and milkshakes for dessert. Sorry, you’re not invited.

Tiger Woods is still looking for his game headed to Augusta. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Tiger Woods is still looking for his game headed to Augusta. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him with tips and story ideas at jay.busbee@yahoo.com.

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