AUGUSTA, Georgia – In every one of the past four years, Justin Thomas played practice adjusts at Augusta National Golf Club with two previous Masters champions – Fred Couples and Tiger Woods.
Thomas said Couples, the 1992 Masters victor, 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 occasion in 2019, is at home in Florida, recuperating from serious injuries he suffered in a single-car crash outside Los Angeles on Feb. 23.
He connected via web-based media on Tuesday evening, saying he’ll “miss running up” Dustin Johnson’s bill at the Champions Dinner on Tuesday night.
Thomas said he chatted with Woods a couple of times a week ago 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, went through a few hours of emergency surgery to fix what specialists called “significant orthopaedic injuries” to his lower right leg and ankle. Doctors said Woods endured comminuted open fractures – bones that were broken into multiple pieces and with breaks in the skin – in the upper and lower parts of the tibia and fibula of his correct leg.
Woods isn’t required to go to Tuesday night’s Champions Dinner facilitated by Dustin Johnson. Woods facilitated the occasion in November 2020 at the pandemic-delayed Masters.
Couples, 61, posted a photograph on Twitter on Tuesday night, in which he and another colleague wearing Tiger masks.
Rory McIlroy, who additionally lives in South Florida, said he visited Woods two or three 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 wanted to play the most.
“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 tragically experienced recovery measures previously.”
On Jan. 19, Woods declared that he went through a microdiscectomy to alleviate nerve torment in his lower back. He recently had it completed multiple times – once in the spring of 2014 and twice in the fall of 2015. He had a spinal fusion in April 2017 that kept him from swinging a golf club for a half year.
Woods returned from that medical procedure in 2018 and won the Tour Championship that year, trailed by the Masters in 2019 and the Zozo Championship soon thereafter.
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 detracted from his visit was that Woods’ prize case is in the family room of his home, and Rory really wanted to see that it contained just the prizes succeeded at 15 significant titles.
“That’s really cool,” McIlroy told Woods. “Where are all the others?”
McIlroy said Woods revealed to him that he didn’t have the foggiest idea where they were, and that his mother had a few and “a few are wherever.”
“I was driving home, and I was thinking that’s all he cared about,” McIlroy said. “So how simple that probably 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.”