[PHOTO: Andrew Redington]

Tiger finished.

The details to follow are largely inconsequential compared to the preceding summation, because it was not at all a foregone conclusion that Tiger Woods might be physically capable of going a full 72 holes at Augusta National Golf Club. So it was rather an accomplishment that Woods was able to post a score all four days, including a final-round 77 in what was his 100th Masters round.

The five-time champion finished with a 16-over 304 total, surpassing the 301 strokes he accumulated two years ago as his highest aggregate score in his 26 Masters appearances.

Will there be another? That remains to be seen. After making the cut for a record 24th straight start, Woods struggled through a career-worst 82 in the third round. He looked better on a warm and sunny morning today. Or, more precisely, he moved better. There were flashes of the golf swing that carried him into the weekend. But it didn’t hold up. His short game and putting were not on point.

Sunday’s round in the company of US Amateur runner-up Neal Shipley, the only amateur to make the cut, was an amalgam of contrary numbers. He found 11 of 14 fairways, but one that he missed, at the long par-4 fifth, resulted in a triple-bogey that marred a scorecard featuring one birdie, at the par-5 second hole. Despite the accuracy off the tee, Woods, once the most majestic iron player since Jack Nicklaus, hit only six greens in regulation.

It’s impossible to know what measures Woods had to take to make his stiff-legged walk to the first tee each day, his gait compromised by the ankle fusion surgery he underwent after last year’s Masters. Likewise, what pain he had to endure only he can say. And he didn’t.

Shipley, a gregarious graduate student at Ohio State University who closed with a 73 to finish with a 300 total, offered a clue. “He told me that he woke up at like 3:45 this morning just to get ready for the day, which is… I got about three hours more sleep than him,” said the 23-year-old from Pittsburgh. “He’s really grinding and making a big commitment to be out here for everyone. It’s awesome to see the patrons really appreciative of him and really enjoy having him out here.”

Before his December comeback at the Hero World Challenge in Bahamas, Woods expressed hope to compete once a month. So far, he’s completed five rounds and change. His next appearance likely will come, if his body permits, in mid-May at the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club, site of his playoff victory in the 2000 PGA that represented the third leg of his incomparable “Tiger Slam”.

The good news is that he was already looking ahead to Valhalla, Pinehurst No.2 for the US Open and Troon for the Open Championship. Better news is that all three are relatively flat and much less arduous to walk than Augusta National.

“This is a golf course I knew going into it, so I’m going to do my homework going forward at Pinehurst, Valhalla and Troon, but that’s kind of the game plan,” Woods, sweat dripping from his temples, said tiredly. “It’s always nice coming back here because I know the golf course, I know how to play it. I can kind of simulate shots. Granted, it’s never quite the same as getting out here and doing it. Same thing, I heard there’s some changes at the next couple sites. So got to get up there early and check them out.”

There was no suggestion of any additional golf beyond the majors. He only planned to “keep the motor going, keep the body moving, keep getting stronger, keep progressing”. Then he added tellingly, “Hopefully, the practice sessions will keep getting longer.”

Which can be inferred to mean that his practice sessions leading into the Masters weren’t as long as he might have preferred.

With his son Charlie accompanying him on the practice range before today’s 9:35am tee-time and even appearing to show dad his own thoughts on the golf swing, Woods was obviously less proficient with his ball-striking on the weekend. It largely mirrored the same struggles he exhibited with his 78-78 weekend in 2022. He’s 48 years old and banged up and bandaged back together, so a falloff in performance isn’t so much a surprise but baked into the outcome.

On Friday, Woods, ever the competitor, put forth the notion that making the cut for a record 24th consecutive year was secondary to the prospects of going for a sixth green jacket and 16th major title. On Sunday, after finishing last among the 60 players who advanced to the weekend, he had to take solace in an accomplishment that probably seemed improbable. Maybe even to him.

He finished.

“It was a good week,” he said blithely. “It was a good week all around. I think that 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 it to.”

Only one man can say that in every championship. Realistically or not, Woods isn’t ready to admit that he can no longer be that guy.