Tiger Woods opened Friday’s post-play self-assessment with a deadpan, mildly dorky cliche straight from his 2005 competitive handbook. About 20 minutes after putting out on 18 to clinch his 24th straight made cut at the Masters, a new record for the tournament, Woods was unemotional about what it meant.

It means I have a chance going into the weekend,” he said. “I’m here. I have a chance to win the golf tournament.”

It was a typically Tiger reply, and not an inaccurate one. But it was an oversimplistic characterization that almost seemed to minimize the accomplishment. Later in his brief chat with the press, though, he emphasized the importance of both a new record and the ability to play two more rounds at the Masters. 

“I’ve been able to play here since I was 19 years old,” he said. “It’s one of the honors I don’t take lightly, being able to compete. The years I have missed, I wish I was able to play because there’s such an aura and mystique about playing this golf course that I don’t think that — unless you have played and competed here, you probably don’t really appreciate.”

Largely due to limitations caused by a beaten-down body, Woods is stuck somewhere between prime competitiveness and ceremonial golfer. He is probably closer to the latter – not there yet, but closer. Even the progression of his press session on Friday illustrated his current state of limbo. 

Another made cut plainly means has a chance to win, which is all that matters. The competitive killer. Later in the same presser, another made cut means he simply has the chance to play more Masters rounds. The ceremonial icon appreciative of the opportunity.

This is not to say these two modes cannot exist at the same time. The dichotomy is just highlighted more at Augusta, given the amount of time Tiger has put in here and the lack of time he might have left. The Masters has always seemed to reward pros that love the game. That might seem like a given, but it’s not the case that every player in the field, even the great ones, view this as anything more than a job. But the Masters, and Augusta National, is an event for the artists, the competitive magicians who love being out there. It’s why players like Palmer, Jack, Crenshaw, Seve, Phil, Bubba, Spieth, and of course Tiger have such a history and relationship with the tournament. This is not a place for pros who view their loops exclusively as a means to a paycheck.

Woods has done everything in golf and checked every possible box, including now a record-breaking made-cut streak at the Masters. But he also still cares about just having the chance to play the Masters, maybe as much as he loved having the chance to win it. When pressed earlier this week about why he still tries to play the Masters given all he’s already accomplished and the toll it takes on his body to make the attempt, he said: “I love golf. I do. I’ve always loved it. I played other sports growing up, but I just have always loved this sport.” On the Masters specifically he said: “This tournament has meant so much to me in my life and my family. I think I’ve been playing here for, what, 29 years now…It has meant a lot to my family. It’s meant a lot to me. I always want to keep playing in this.”

It’s a pretty simple sentiment that probably explains more than we realize about why he’s succeeded and why he continues to try. It reveals why he finds purpose in rounds and events where a win might not be possible. He was not going to win on Friday afternoon, but damn if another made cut wasn’t going to mean something to him. In the moment on the 18th green, there was a bit of extra enthusiasm in his raised fist when it was clear he’d be safely on the right side of the cut line. Unless maybe it was just relief to get off the golf course after one last blast of wind gave him a sand shower for the road.

It was the kind of day when only the golfers wanted to go inside. The temperature was close to ideal. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, providing the kind of flawless backdrop conducive to picking up white balls soaring against blue before tumbling along green. It was perfect. For the golfers, though, it was menacing. The winds were truly brutal, as was clearly visible to anyone watching from the couch. Max Homa, who played 23 holes of golf alongside Woods on Friday, said all they wanted to do was just be inside and out of the gusts. 

It might seem a middling accomplishment for Tiger to get the made-cut streak record. But think about all the elite pros, with bodies far more intact, and more competitively sharp, who keep missing cuts while Woods keeps making them. Sometimes it’s a mix of bad play and bad luck. Even in Tiger’s own group, Jason Day, his playing partner, screwed around in the trees on the right of the 18th hole and nearly found out! Young stars Jordan Spieth, Sam Burns, Justin Thomas, and Viktor Hovland are going home. Dustin Johnson, maybe the greatest player of his generation, is out. That’s just this year. Woods has managed to avoid both bad play and bad breaks enough to make the weekend for 24 consecutive Masters. He has made cuts in every kind of weather. He’s made them when he’s barely been able to walk.

Friday’s winds made for an exhausting test, yet the player who might have the most broken-down body navigated it again. The winds were a possible equalizer for him thanks to his golf brain, which processes this place better than anyone. There would be missed greens, yes. But Woods, who has conditioned his backyard in Florida to simulate Augusta for regular short-game work, a form of practice that takes less of a physical toll, was able to get up-and-down with his usual consistency. Even when his body won’t allow for regular competition he can keep that part of his game sharp, and it showed up in a big way at 17 and 18 when a cut-induced sweat could have materialized. 

Made cuts are certainly a motivator, but they are not the only goal for Tiger. He’s not going into a prevent defense, even when the conditions might make that the predominant strategy. And that’s how we went back in time a bit, with Tiger standing at the top of the hill on 15 deciding to go for the green on the par 5. After his round, Phil Mickelson said: “You can’t reach 13 and 15.” Tiger’s younger playing partners laid up short. But from nearby in the trees to the right, the sound of the strike, a pure ping, foreshadowed a roar from down around the green. The shot looked and sounded great immediately. It ripped through the wind and landed soft. With water short and long, Woods risked what at the time was a potential missed-cut inducing mistake. Instead he two-putted for an easy birdie. It was an exhilarating, dramatic throwback.

You’d like to think Tiger still absolutely loves the opportunity, just the chance to stand on top of that hill. He has to love the opportunity to analyze a big shot, to debate internally and weigh risk and reward. He has to love the chance to try and pull it off. Tiger has another record now, yes. But just as important for him, he has two more days to stand at the top of that hill in a Masters.

This piece originally appeared in the Fried Egg Golf newsletter. Subscribe for free and receive golf news and insight every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. For more coverage of the Masters, visit our site hub here.