You can feel Tiger in every corner and he crops in every chat and thought

Tiger Woods – File Pic

April 7: He is not here, at least this year. But everyone seems to see Tiger Woods in every corner and everyone wants him back. At the Augusta National Golf Club, from where he took back five Green Jackets; at the Champions Dinner, which he has hosted five times and much else.

He would surely have been one of the biggest draws at the Dinner and the tournament. But he is back home recovering from that ghastly accident which at one stage seemed capable of taking golf away from him. Even now it’s not clear when he will be back – he usually makes his comebacks at his own event – the Hero World Challenge. He’s done that four times in the past towards the end of the calendar year. Yes, it would be every golf follower’s ultimate wish for 2021 – to see Tiger back at the tee.

The man himself offers us hopes with a good humoured tweet, even as his ‘buddies’ and ‘rivals’ spoke about him in the run-up to the 2021 Masters.

Tuesday evening of the Masters is something every Masters champion loves and cherishes. It is also a ritual what the rest want to be a part of. A win not only ensures a permanent invitation to play the Masters but also to attend the Champions Dinner, too.

As the 2020 champion Dustin Johnson got ready to host the Champions Dinner, Woods tweeted,  “ I’ll miss running up @DJohnsonPGA ‘s bill at the Champions Dinner tonight. It’s still one of my favorite nights of the year.

Meanwhile, DJ will surely miss TW at the Dinner

Justin Thomas, one of Woods’ closest buddies along with Fred Couples, also a former two-time Masters champion, mentioned at the pre-tournament press conference, said, “As needling as they can be towards me, they have been nice enough to not bring that up. I think they know that I know and that hurts me enough that they don’t need to continuously remind me.

“In our practice rounds on Tuesdays, it’s like, well, where are you going tonight or whatever?  And I’m just like, whatever, I’m done.  I get it.  You guys are going to the Champions Dinner and I’m eating at my house.

“They have been nice to me and not needled me about that.  I was fortunate enough to do a Champions Dinner at the PGA.  It was a really, really cool experience and something that you’re a part of forever.  Feels like a fraternity.  It’s definitely a fraternity I would love to join.”

Then on the morning of the Champions Dinner, Rory McIlroy was at the presser and he was asked about good humoured ‘trash-talking’ during the Masters practice rounds, and whether he wondered what it would be like to be there, and is it fair game?  Have you been needled about not being there? McIlroy, straight to the point as ever, replied, “No, actually, I haven’t, which —  I think Tuesday night is a wonderful tradition at the Masters, and everyone knows what goes on with the Champions Dinner, and of course I think everyone in this field that isn’t a part of that dinner would love to be a part of it.

You know, I just think it’s so cool that you have all these former champions from different generations getting around a table and sharing some really cool stories.  I think that’s one of the cool things about winning the Masters is being able to go back to that dinner each and every year.

They are the cool perks about winning a green jacket, right.  It’s being able to come back here every year, enjoying this week.  So yeah, I’d obviously love to be able to be a part of that one day.  And it could be the year where everything clicks and I’m the one hosting that dinner next year.  You never know.”

Many of the players have been on the phone with him; exchanged texts – like Bryson DeChambeau revealed that he got a text from Woods on the morning of the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which he eventually won. Other PGA Tour stars, who stay in the region like Brooks Koepka, DJ and Rickie Fowler, a close friend like Justin Thomas, and others have been in touch or have visited him.

Justin Thomas has been visiting him very often, as he revealed how much he missed Woods at Augusta. Asked what he missed most, he replied, “Playing the practice rounds with him for sure. I went over and saw him a couple times last week. Tried to go over a couple times during the week whenever I’m home and see him.  We texted Friday morning, and he said it’s kind of starting to set in.  He’s bummed he’s not here playing practice rounds with us, and we hate it, too.  I’m very, very lucky that I somehow got thrown into that practice round group with Tiger and Freddie (Fred Couples) the last four years or whatever it is, especially around this place, I just follow them around like puppy dogs.” So that’s how much Masters and wanting to be a champion means for Thomas or any of the others who have not won it.

McIlroy came up with a best story, which revealed his relationship with Woods and the respect he has for him and talked about getting a peek into Woods’ perspective of golf. Asked about his plans for it – whether peaking for it or taking it as another week or circling it on the calendar, McIlroy replied, “I think  circling them on the calendar is probably the best way to go.  I was thinking about this.”

And then added, “So I went over to Tiger’s house a few weeks ago to see him, and in his family room he’s got his trophy cabinet and it’s his 15 major trophies.  I said, “That’s really cool.  Where are all the others?”

He (Woods) said, “I don’t know.”  I go, “What?”  He said, “Yeah, my mom has some, and a few are in the office and a few are wherever.”

“I was driving home, and I was thinking — that’s all he cared about, all he cared about.  So how easy that must have felt for him to win all the others.  That was just always in my mind, he talked about these are the four weeks that matter.  The other stuff must have been like practice.  So that’s like a really — that’s a cool perspective to have, right.”

And he also added, “Yeah, that’s all I could think about on the way home.  And I was glad he was okay, too.”


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