Around every corner at Augusta National is another reminder that Tiger Woods isn’t getting any younger.
He played a practice round with a teenager from China who wasn’t even born when Woods won his first Masters. He was introduced at his news conference Tuesday as playing the Masters for the 19th time, which caused Woods to bow his head and cover his eyes.
Among dozens of photographs on the walls of the club is one of defending champion Phil Mickelson helping Woods — with a much fuller head of hair — into the green jacket after Woods won the Masters in a playoff.
That was from 2005. And that was the last time Woods won the Masters.
Woods says at least he’s contending, so he’s not about to panic.
He conceded that it feels a lot longer than eight years ago, though he is not the least bit discouraged that the Masters is the major he has gone the longest without winning.
Since that Sunday evening, Woods has won the British Open twice, the PGA Championship twice and another U.S. Open.
Could he have imagined in 2005 that seven Masters would come and go without him winning?
“I wouldn’t have been happy with that,” Woods said. “I put myself in the mix every year but last year, and that’s the misleading part. It’s not like I’ve been out there with no chance of winning this championship. I’ve been there, and unfortunately just haven’t got it done.
“Obviously, I’m not real happy with the fact that I haven’t won more,” he said. “But the whole idea is to give myself opportunities. And as of right now, I’m tied for second on the all-time win list here. So that’s not too bad, either.”
Woods has changed his practice routine at this major. For years known as a dew sweeper for playing his practice rounds at the crack of dawn, Woods hasn’t shown up at the course until after lunch this week.
He played Monday afternoon with 14-year-old Guan Tianlang and Dustin Johnson. After his news conference, he headed to the practice range before going out for nine holes with Fred Couples.
Asked about the change, he was coy, telling a reporter with whom he’s familiar, “Just wanted to mess with you.” He smiled, never giving an explanation, so that much hasn’t changed about Woods.
The biggest difference is his health and his game, which are connected.
There has been so much activity off the golf course — the scandalous revelations of extramarital affairs that ended his marriage, changing swing coaches to rebuild his swing for the fourth time, a move to South Florida to a mansion so large he has his own practice range in the backyard — that it was easy to overlook the injuries.
It all started to turn the corner last year when Woods began winning again — three times on the PGA Tour — and getting back into contention at the majors.