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, knocked him down Tuesday morning.
“He didn’t feel like getting up in the cold early this morning, so I made sure to give him some pain,” Thomas said. “I don’t know if he would have abandoned me if Tiger was with me, but he did with me.”
Woods, a five-time Masters champion who last won the event in 2019, is at his home in Florida, recovering from serious injuries he sustained in a car accident outside of Los Angeles on February 23.
Thomas said he visited Woods a few times last week and texted him Friday morning.
“He said it’s starting to settle in,” Thomas said. “He’s upset that he’s not here playing practice rounds with us, and we hate him too.”
Woods, 45, underwent several hours of emergency surgery to repair what doctors called “major orthopedic injuries” to his lower right leg and ankle. Doctors said Woods suffered comminuted open fractures, bones broken into more than two pieces and with breaks in the skin on the upper and lower tibia and fibula of his right leg.
Woods is not expected to attend Tuesday night’s dinner of champions hosted by Dustin Johnson. Woods hosted the event in November 2020 at the Masters delayed by the pandemic.
Couples, 61, posted a photo on Twitter Tuesday night of him and another member of his team wearing tiger masks.
Thinking of my boy @Tiger During this week @teachers. I’ll miss you tonight at dinner. It’s not the same without you. pic.twitter.com/AigjVx2HIZ
– fredcouplesgolf (@fredcouplesgolf) April 6, 2021
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 a good mood and not really so … like when you hear about 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 most enjoyed playing.
“Every time Tiger Woods plays in a golf tournament, it’s better,” McIlroy said. “It’s better for the tournament. It’s better for the players who 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.” But, yeah, he always misses when he doesn’t play these big events.
“I know he’s 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, the broken bones heal, and he has to do it step by step.”
Thomas said: “I would say that what happens to him is that, unfortunately, he has gone through rehabilitation processes before.”
On January 19, Woods announced that he underwent a microdiscectomy to relieve pain in the nerves in his lower back. He had previously done it 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 returned 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 will do whatever it takes to help.
“That’s exactly what I want to do for him, I mean, ‘Dude, I’ll do whatever you want. If you need me to help with your kids, I can do it. If you’re craving McDonald’s and you want me to bring it to you, buddy, I don’t care. I’m here for you and I’ll help you where I can, ‘”Thomas said.
One thing McIlroy took away from his visit was that Woods’ trophy case is in his living room, and Rory couldn’t help but notice that it only contained trophies won in 15 major championships.
“That’s really cool,” McIlroy told Woods. “Where is everyone else?”
McIlroy said Woods told him he didn’t know where they were and that his mother had some and “some are anywhere.”
“He was driving home and he thought that was the only thing that mattered to him,” McIlroy said. “So how easy it must have been for him to beat everyone else.
“That was always on my mind, he talked about these are the four weeks that matter … The other things must have been like practice. Yeah, that’s all I could think of on the way home. And I was glad that it was good too. “