Justin Thomas

Thomas: Tiger ‘bummed’ not to be at Masters


AUGUSTA, Georgia — In each of the previous four years, Justin Thomas played practice rounds at Augusta National Golf Club with two former Masters champions — Fred Couples and Tiger Woods.

Thomas said Couples, the 1992 Masters winner, blew him off Tuesday morning.

“He didn’t feel like getting up in the early cold weather this morning, so I made sure to give him some grief,” Thomas said. “I don’t know if he would have bailed on me if Tiger was with me, but he did on me.”

Woods, a five-time Masters champion who last won the event in 2019, is at home in Florida, recovering from serious injuries he suffered in a single-car wreck outside Los Angeles on Feb. 23.

He reached out on social media on Tuesday afternoon, saying he’ll “miss running up” Dustin Johnson’s bill at the Champions Dinner on Tuesday night.

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Thomas said he visited with Woods a couple of times last week and exchanged text messages with him Friday morning.

“He said it’s kind of starting to set in,” Thomas said. “He’s bummed he’s not here playing practice rounds with us, and we hate it, too.”

Woods, 45, underwent several hours of emergency surgery to repair what doctors called “significant orthopaedic injuries” to his lower right leg and ankle. Doctors said Woods suffered comminuted open fractures — bones that were broken into more than two pieces and with breaks in the skin — in the upper and lower portions of the tibia and fibula of his right leg.

Woods is not expected to attend Tuesday night’s Champions Dinner hosted by Dustin Johnson. Woods hosted the event in November 2020 at the pandemic-delayed Masters.

Couples, 61, posted a photo on Twitter on Tuesday night, in which he and another member of his team were wearing Tiger masks.

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Rory McIlroy, who also lives in South Florida, said he visited Woods for a couple of hours at his home on March 21.

“It was good to see him in decent spirits and actually not as … like when you hear of these things and you look at the car and you see the crash, it’s like, you think he’s going to be in a hospital bed for six months,” McIlroy said. “But he was actually doing better than that.”

McIlroy said Woods would be missed at the tournament he loved to play the most.

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“Any time Tiger Woods tees it up in a golf tournament, it’s better,” McIlroy said. “It’s better for the tournament. It’s better for the players that are involved. It’s better for everyone. Unfortunately, he’s not here this year. Hopefully, if his recovery goes well, who knows, he could be back in 12 months’ time. But, yeah, he’s always missed when he doesn’t play in these big events.

“I know he’s at home and he’s fully focused on the recovery process, and I feel like he’s mentally strong enough to get through that. And once he does, broken bones heal, and he’s just got to take it step by step.”

Said Thomas: “I would say the thing for him is he’s unfortunately been through rehab processes before.”

On Jan. 19, Woods announced that he underwent a microdiscectomy to alleviate nerve pain in his lower back. He previously had it done three times — once in the spring of 2014 and twice in the fall of 2015. He had a spinal fusion in April 2017 that prevented him from swinging a golf club for six months.

Woods came back from that surgery in 2018 and won the Tour Championship that year, followed by the Masters in 2019 and the Zozo Championship later that year.

Thomas said he has told Woods, one of his close friends, that he’ll do whatever he needs to help.

“That’s just what I want to do for him, is just be like, ‘Dude, I’ll do anything you want. If you need me to help out with your kids, I can do that. If you’re craving McDonald’s and you want me to bring it over, dude, I don’t care. I’m here for you, and I’ll help out however I can,'” Thomas said.

One thing McIlroy took away from his visit was that Woods’ trophy case is in the family room of his house, and Rory couldn’t help but notice that it contained only the trophies won at 15 major championships.

“That’s really cool,” McIlroy told Woods. “Where are all the others?”

McIlroy said Woods told him that he didn’t know where they were, and that his mom had some and “a few are wherever.”

“I was driving home, and I was thinking that’s all he cared about,” McIlroy said. “So how easy that must have felt for him to win all the others.

“That was just always in my mind, he talked about these are the four weeks that matter. … The other stuff must have been like practice. Yeah, that’s all I could think about on the way home. And I was glad he was okay, too.”

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