Woods shows positive signs; won't play for 'a while'

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AUGUSTA, Ga. – Tiger Woods answered most questions at the Masters and left little doubt about whether he is healthy and has enough gas left in the proverbial tank to still compete with the game’s top dogs.

It’s still difficult to fathom that we didn’t know if Woods was going to play in the Masters until 10 days ago. Not only did he play, he made the cut, spent much of the tournament well within the top 10 and shot bookend 73s with 69-68 sandwiched in the middle.

Woods was paired with Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy on the weekend and ultimately tied for 17th place at 5 under par, 13 shots behind Jordan Spieth.

“I’m pretty proud of what of what I’ve done,” Woods said. “To make my short game my strength again was pretty sweet. That’s something that I have worked my butt off to get to that point.”

When last we saw Woods before this week – two months ago in California – he couldn’t produce the easiest of shots. He withdrew after 11 holes of the Farmers Insurance Open because his “glutes” were not activated, but the week before that at the Phoenix Open, he missed the cut by miles, shot a second-round 82 and tied for last place in the field with someone named Michael Hopper.

Woods didn’t remotely resemble the same person at Augusta National and clearly did what he said he was going to do – return to golf only when he felt he could compete.

A first-round 73 at the Masters was impressive because it was his short game that bailed him out on numerous occasions. The middle two rounds of 69-68 were fairly stress-free and, frankly, both could’ve been much lower. The final round was a struggle and Woods could not convert several key putts early in his round to produce any sort of momentum.

The biggest drama of the week came on the par-4 ninth hole when Woods hit his approach shot from pine needles on the right side of the fairway. He went after the ball with a hard swing and took a big chunk of a root that was buried beneath. Woods winced for the next 20 minutes, repeatedly shook his hand and wrist to make the pain go away and walked with a slumped shoulder. By the time he reached the 11th tee box it appeared as if most of the pain was gone.

“A bone kind of popped out and the joint kind of went out of place,” Woods said. “But I put it back in.”

Where Woods goes from here is anyone’s guess. Like usual, he was coy with his playing schedule and refused to say where he’d play next.

“I’m not going to play for a while,” he said. “I’m going to take some time off.”

In his normal schedule over the years, The Players would seem like a likely place to play next. Woods was specifically asked about that particular tournament, but would not commit, and would only say, “I’m going to practice. Practice some more.”