"Absolutely," Woods said. He trailed McIlroy by seven shots at the time. There were a dozen players tied with Woods or lower than him. By the time Woods made the turn on Sunday, after going out in 31, he was tied for the lead at 10 under. Not low American. Overall low man. As he made the walk from the 9th green to the 10th, his face looked as if it were made of granite. It was the game face to end all game faces. It made you miss the old Tiger, the one who took no prisoners, the one who was (you could make the case) the best closer in the history of sports. "C'mon, camera guys, c'mon," he said as he prepared to play his tee shot on the 10th hole. Everybody was on edge: the players, the fans, the camera guys. No athlete has ever fallen so far so fast as Woods, not in the history of American sports. If Tiger could return to winning at Augusta, the place where he won the first of his 14 professional majors, it would be the epic first chapter of the rest of his golfing life.
As it turned out, Woods could manage nothing more than a back-nine 36, for a 67 and a four-day total of 10 under par. Charl Schwartzel, with his four straight birdies in the end, finished four shots ahead of Woods in the overall competition. Still, Woods won low American. He didn't stick around for the awards ceremony. He did take a big step toward getting a spot on Fred's American Presidents Cup team come September.
Woods is famous for taking no pleasure from second-place finishes and finding no value in moral victories. He was the leader or coleader in the clubhouse for about a half hour on Sunday evening, until Adam Scott of Australia shot a score two lower than Tiger's. Winning the low-American title at the 2011 Masters and finishing in a tie for fourth in the whole thing may not get even a half sentence on Woods's wildly expansive Wikipedia page. But something much more important did happen: Woods got standing ovations on the 10th hole, on the 18th hole, and the biggest roar of the day when he made an eagle on the 8th hole. It told us what we may not have known before last week: American golf fans are ready to see this guy win again. And something else, too: Woods is getting closer to making it happen.
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