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Fans watch as Tiger Woods of the US walks off the eighth tee during the final round of the 2024 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday. Image Credit: AFP

Augusta: Tiger Woods wore his trademark red shirt for the final round of the Masters and drew packed crowds, but this was a Tiger Woods morning matinee show at Augusta with Sunday’s real blockbuster still hours away.

Swarms of fans, so rarely seen at 9:35am on the final day at Augusta — a full five hours before the leaders were due to tee off — were proof, if any were needed, that Woods remains golf’s top box office draw.

But his scorecard over the final two rounds of this year’s Masters told another story — the rather sad tale of a fading star, no longer capable of competing with the best over four rounds at the famous old course where he has won five titles.

A 10-over par 82 on Saturday wrecked any chance of a final-round charge and when he triple bogeyed the fifth on Sunday and followed with a bogey at six, there was the risk of Woods venturing into embarrassing territory.

But showing all of his professional pride, deep course knowledge and still sharp technique, Woods steadied the ship with pars until another bogey on the 15th as he cared a five-over 77.

He left the 18th green to a huge ovation from the crowd but also in last position on the leader board, 16-over for the tournament.

“It doesn’t take much to get out of position here. Unfortunately, I got out of position a lot yesterday and a couple times today,” said Woods, who was nonetheless pleased with his effort over the four rounds.

His battle through 23 holes on Friday to make the cut for a record 24th time at the Masters, was evidence that his competitive spirit remains as strong as ever but his collapse came in the third round with his Masters-worst 82.

“It was a good week. It was a good week all around,” he said. “Coming in here, not having played a full tournament in a very long time, it was a good fight on Thursday and Friday. Unfortunately yesterday it didn’t quite turn out the way I wanted.”

Physical torture

As he tends to his aches and pains over the coming days, the 48-year-old may ponder if it is really worth putting himself through the physical torture of what for him has become an endurance test.

But, as yet, he shows no indication of being ready to call it a day, saying his plans include the next three majors.

“I’m going to do my homework going forward at Pinehurst, Valhalla and Troon ... that’s kind of the game plan,” he said.

“Just keep lifting, keep the motor going, keep the body moving, keep getting stronger, keep progressing. Hopefully the practice sessions will keep getting longer.”

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Tiger Woods acknowledges the crowd on the green on the 18th hole after completing his final round. Image Credit: Reuters

Next year will mark the 30th anniversary of Woods’ first appearance at the Masters, as an amateur in 1995 when he finished 41st.

The following year, Woods returned to Augusta, as a rookie professional, and promptly won the tournament, launching his era of domination of the sport that has included five Masters wins.

Astonishing comeback

Woods has 15 major titles, the most recent his astonishing comeback win at the Masters in 2019 — his first major triumph in 11 years and one that offered the tantalising promise of a glorious late career revival despite the wear and tear on his body.

But it is now abundantly clear that the car crash he suffered in 2021 and the serious injuries he received have made such a return remote.

The chances of Woods having a significant role in the future of the sport, divided since the emergence of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf as a rival to the PGA Tour, appear much more likely.

Woods was part of the recent meeting in the Bahamas between a group of PGA Tour policy board player members and Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the head of the Saudi Public Investment Fund who bankroll LIV.

The two rival tours are formally in talks over a potential merger and Woods said the gathering in the Caribbean in March had been worthwhile.

“I don’t know if we’re closer, but certainly we’re headed in the right direction,” he said. “That was a very positive meeting, and I think both sides came away from the meeting feeling positive.”