WAsk a scorpion why it stings, a lion why it eats red meat, or tiger forest if you think you can win? Woods has been answering that question the same way for the past 25 years. But on Tuesday someone put it back on. “This time last year, you said that you definitely wouldn’t be here unless you thought you had a good chance of winning the tournament. Does that still stand? And this time Woods’ response was a little different than what we’ve grown accustomed to. In fact, for the first time in his life, he didn’t actually have one.

Woods very deliberately chose to focus on the second part of the reporter’s question, about how his fitness compares to this time last year, when he scored 71, 74, 78, 78 and finished 47th. it’s better than last year at this particular time. I think my stamina is better. But my leg hurts a little more than last year.”

Last year’s Masters, Woods explained, was the first time since his car accident that he had really pushed his body. Back then she didn’t really know what she was capable of. She now she does, and the difference in him is clear. He has had to make peace with the idea that he will never be able to play the game the way he used to. “I just have to be aware of how much I can push it. I can take a lot of shots, but the difficulty for me will be walking, moving forward. It is what it is. I wish it could be easier.” But “that’s my future, and I’m fine with that.”

Woods speaks like a much older 47-year-old man, but he has lived much longer than most men his age. He blamed those two rounds of 78 at the weekend here last year on cold weather, which shut his body down, describing his achievement in making the cut as a victory in itself. “I still would have liked to have gotten the win, but I didn’t, but I think I got my own smaller version of that, to be able to come back and just be able to play.” The truth is, he just doesn’t know how many more races he has left.

“I don’t know how many more I have in me,” Woods admitted, but every time he plays here, he says, he knows it could be his last. He has changed the way he thinks. He spoke of being able to “appreciate the time I have here” and says that he has changed his enjoyment of the game. “It’s different. I can’t compete and play as many tournaments or do the things that I’ve been able to do over the years, but being able to continue to share this game and create new memories with my son and also pass on some of the things that I’ve learned has been fantastic.”

Tiger Woods prepares for the Masters
Woods doesn’t know how much longer he will be able to compete in the majors. Photo: Brian Snyder/Reuters

These days, Woods says he really enjoys catching up with his friends at the champions’ dinner and his regular practice round with his old friend Fred Couples. Which is quite a change for a man who has dedicated his entire life to the ruthless pursuit of winning. Not, of course, that he has completely given up on the idea of ​​racing here yet. Woods says he’s too stubborn to give up entirely, and there’s still a hint of twinkle in his eye when he’s asked if he thinks younger players think he’s a threat.

“Who knows?” Woods jokes. “People probably didn’t think I was a threat in 2019 either, but I turned out to be okay.” If he has a chance, he says, it lies in how well he knows the field. He may not have been playing here as often as he used to in the lead up to Masters week. But he’s been doing it in his head, instead. “I’ve been able to recreate a lot of the chip shots at home in my backyard,” he says, “trying to simulate shots and rehearsing over and over each and every flag placement, each and every shot that could hit.

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“I’ve been through so many different scenarios in my head. You know I don’t sleep very well, so going through it and digging through the data bank and how to shoot each and every place and rehearsing it; that’s the only way I can compete here. I don’t have the physical tournaments under my belt. I haven’t played that much. But if there is a golf course that I can return to, as I did last year, it is here, just because I know the golf course. Which sounds like another way of saying you’re dreaming.

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