Tiger Woods will play the Masters just 14 months after a car crash that nearly resulted in doctors amputating his right leg, setting the stage for what could go down as one of sport’s greatest comebacks.
In a career already packed with remarkable comebacks, this week at Augusta National could be the scene of something extraordinary, with Woods saying he will not only play the Masters but that he can win a sixth green jacket.
Woods had teased on Sunday that playing in the year’s first major would be a “game-time” decision. After a morning on the practice range, he walked into the media centre and delivered the news golf fans had been waiting to hear.
“As of right now, I feel like I am going to play,” Woods said during his pre-tournament news conference.
“I don’t show up to an event unless I think I can win it.
“I love competing, and I feel like if I can still compete at the highest level, I’m going to and if I feel like I can still win, I’m going to play.”
Woods has not competed on the PGA Tour since the November 2020 Masters and cast serious doubt on his professional golfing future after suffering serious leg injuries in a February 2021 car crash.
The 46-year-old played a practice round on Monday. After nine holes, he was noticeably limping as he made his way up to the ninth green.
By all accounts Woods’ game is in good shape, with the bigger question being how well his damaged leg will hold up over a potential four rounds on the undulating Augusta National layout, one of the more demanding tracks on the PGA Tour.
“You know, 72 holes is a long road, and it’s going to be a tough challenge and a challenge that I’m up for,” Woods said.
“There is [pain] each and every day.
“I can hit it just fine. I don’t have any qualms about what I can do physically from a golf standpoint.
“It’s now walking is the hard part. This is normally not an easy walk to begin with. Now given the conditions that my leg is in, it gets even more difficult.”
Woods is no stranger to playing through pain, something he famously proved at the 2008 US Open where he prevailed in a thrilling play-off at Torrey Pines while competing on what was essentially a broken leg.
He capped one of the most miraculous comebacks in professional sport when, at the age of 43, he won the Masters in 2019 after enduring years of surgery and personal problems that convinced many the best golfer of his generation was done.
The 15-time major winner’s career again looked over following his horrific crash, to the point where even he finds it hard to believe he is back at Augusta National not just for the champions’ dinner but playing.
“I never left that hospital bed even to see my living room for three months. So that was a tough road.
“To say that I was going to be here playing and talking to you guys again, it would have been very unlikely.”
While the initial suspense has ended, the drama is just beginning at Augusta National as everyone waits to see just how prepared Woods is to compete.
Woods will tee off at 10.34 am local time on Thursday in a threesome with South African Louis Oosthuizen and Chile’s Joaquin Niemann.
After two years of COVID-19 restrictions that limited the number of spectators allowed onto the grounds, the fans have returned in massive numbers and so has the unmistakable Augusta National buzz, amplified by the presence of Woods.