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In Not Playing Last Week, the Weeks Tiger Did Play in 2022 Appear Even More Impressive

Morning Read on Sports Illustrated 12/5/2022 Bob Harig

Justin Thomas called it 'pretty insane' for Woods to make two cuts in majors earlier this year. Woods said this setback will take 'a month or two of rest.'

NASSAU, Bahamas — Plantar fasciitis is no joke. Those who suffer with it report intense pain and discomfort in the heel or arch of the foot. It makes walking difficult. And the best cure is not to walk.

So Tiger Woods withdrew from his own tournament last week citing that issue, and while it is a serious problem, it nonetheless seems to pale in comparison to broken bones in his lower leg and foot, multiple surgeries, blood flow issues and all the other things we don’t know about that came from the car crash in February 2021.

Woods said at the Hero World Challenge that week that the plantar fasciitis was directly related to his foot injuries. He simply tried to ramp up too much to play the Hero tournament, and it is understandable.

Not only would Hero have been a good measuring gauge for where his game is and his ability to walk, but the tournament is important to him and his foundation. Started with the urging of his father in the late 1990s, it was the first of his tournament associations that benefit his foundation.

Woods playing over the weekend would have meant more eyeballs for the tournament on another football weekend. It would have meant more exposure for his foundation. It would have answered some questions about his game, as much as that will still be a consideration going forward.

And his absence was again a reminder of how remarkable it was that Woods even played at all in 2022. Although Woods said during the broadcast on Saturday that he believes he can still win again if he can get his foot to cooperate, the bottom line is this year has shown the difficulty of the task.

Jon Rahm played with him during the final round of the Masters and shook his head at the notion that he and Woods were put on the clock by a rules official for slow play on the seventh hole.

“He can’t walk any faster, let’s be honest," Rahm said. “He was already doing and amazing job trying to move up and down those hills. We all joked around with the official and then when he turned around, Tiger takes off and I'm looking at my caddie, like, well, this is incredible."

Woods shot 78 that day, as he did during the third round. He finished 47th, his worst 72-hole finish at the tournament as a pro. But it was a victory in another way. He played.

Tiger Woods completed four rounds at Augusta National this year, one of the hilliest walks in golf. Danielle Parhizkaran/USA TODAY Network © Provided by Morning Read on Sports Illustrated Tiger Woods completed four rounds at Augusta National this year, one of the hilliest walks in golf. Danielle Parhizkaran/USA TODAY Network

As late as two weeks out, the idea of Woods competing at the Masters seemed remote. He broke par in the first round but it was obvious as the tournament progressed that the walk was difficult.

“We see the reality afterwards that the cameras don't see," Rahm said. “He puts on a bit of a show for the camera, like he's not going to show how much he's really hurting. When we finished scoring, just seeing him stand up and move around that room when there's nobody watching, there's a difference, especially after playing 18 holes and after sitting down when your legs cool off a little bit, it changes.

“It's really inspiring. How many surgeries has he had where he was written off? He was done, he's not playing again, he's not only come back and won tournaments, right? It seems right now that we might be reaching that point, but I don't put anything past him. He surprised me before and he surprised a lot of people before."

Justin Thomas probably knows better than most. He’s spent considerable time with Woods, knows more than he lets on, has seen the struggles.

“There plenty of times I didn't think he was going to be playing a tournament," Thomas said. “But him, well, he made the cut in the Masters, he made the cut in the PGA. It's pretty insane actually. To make the cut at Augusta for how he felt early in the year, it's mind-blowing, honestly.

“I can't put it into words how much his mind just works in his favor compared to everybody else and how much better it is than everybody else's. He's a different person when he gets out there, and especially at Augusta, all the good vibes and memories and everything he has. When that focus clicks on, it's a different person."

Woods will play The Match—a 12-hole made-for-TV exhibition with Rory McIlroy, Thomas and Jordan Spieth—on Saturday. A week later it’s the 36-hole PNC Championship with his son, Charlie. All of that will be in a golf cart. Woods turns 47 on Dec. 30.

As for recovering from the latest setback? “It’s going to take a month or two of rest," he said.

That means early January at best, early February at worst? The Genesis Invitational, his likely starting point in 2023, begins Feb. 16.

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