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AUGUSTA, Ga. – Tiger Woods limped to the finish of the Masters, literally and figuratively, and for once in his life seemed thrilled to appear vulnerable.

He chatted with playing partners, acknowledged fans, opened up to reporters, and was last seen hugging his family and using his son, Charlie, as an improvised crutch as he limped into the Augusta National clubhouse.

Woods shot rounds of 71, 74, 78 and 78. Conventional wisdom would have had him struggling to swing well in his first PGA Tour event in 17 months, and his first since a frightening car accident damaged his right leg enough that he feared it would need to be amputated. Instead, his putter let him down.

The 78s were his worst rounds ever at the Masters, yet the former stone-faced, winning-is-the-only thing competitor was all smiles Sunday.

He had played four rounds on a bad leg, at the age of 46, on a hilly course, following 14 months of intense rehabilitation and nightly ice baths in Augusta.

"I don't think people really understand," Woods said. "The people who are close to me understand. They've seen it. Some of the players who are close to me have seen it and have seen some of the pictures and the things that I have had to endure. They appreciate it probably more than anyone else because they know what it takes to do this out here at this level.

"It's one thing to play with my son at a hit-and-giggle, but it's another thing to play in a major championship. It's been a tough road, and one that I'm very thankful to have the opportunity to be able to grind through it. A lot of different things could have happened, but after 14 months, I'm able to tee it up and play in the Masters."

Woods drew massive galleries all week, even in his practice rounds, and seemed to loom over the tournament even after dropping from contention.

"It's inspiring," Woods said. "It's fun to hear the roars, to hear the hole in ones. I think Kitchen [Stewart Cink] made one the other day. To hear that roar down there at the bottom on 16, just to hear that excitement of what this tournament brings out."