Tiger Woods, whose career has been marked by triumph, adversity, determination, and resurrection, announced on Tuesday that he will attempt his most stunning comeback yet: returning to golf’s most prestigious stage, the Masters Tournament, roughly 14 months after a car accident that was so devastating that doctors considered amputating his right leg.
At 10:34 a.m. on Thursday, Woods is slated to tee off in the opening round of the Masters Tournament, despite the fact that he discounted his physical ability to compete on a championship course only two months ago.
In an interview at Augusta National Golf Club, Woods, 46, expressed his confidence in his ability to compete. The tournament has been held at the club since 1934.
He will be attempting to earn his sixth green jacket, which is the ceremonial garment awarded to Masters champions and golf’s most coveted honour. With victory at the Masters, Woods would equal Jack Nicklaus for the most major championship wins and capture his 16th major championship, putting him one step closer to Nicklaus’s record of 18 major championships.
Woods has not competed in a PGA Tour event in 17 months, and his global ranking has plunged to 973, according to Golf World magazine. He did, however, respond affirmatively when asked on Tuesday whether he felt that he might win this week: “I do.”
Given his previous track record, it didn’t seem to be a frivolous claim. It is part of Woods’ legend that he can achieve seemingly impossible feats while under duress, like winning the 2008 U.S. Open in a playoff despite having a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee as well as two stress fractures in his left leg, which helped him to become the first person to win the tournament.
Woods spoke on his experience at Torrey Pines Golf Course, outside San Diego, on Tuesday, saying it will serve as an inspiration moving forward.
Woods acknowledged that walking the hilly terrain of Augusta National for four consecutive days will put a strain on his right leg, which was surgically rebuilt after his sport-utility vehicle was involved in a high-speed collision with a boulevard in the Los Angeles area on Feb. 23, 2021, and will require further rehabilitation.
Openings in the tibia and fibula of his right leg required the placement of a rod, as well as screws and pins, which were placed into his foot and ankle to stabilise the fractures. In addition to spending a month in the hospital, Woods was forced to remain in bed at his Florida home for another two months.
Woods said that he has no reservations about his ability to play the game. He expressed concern about the geographical hazards of Augusta as well as the rigours of the 72-hole competition, saying, “Walking is the difficult part.”
Louis Oosthuizen, who finished second at the Masters in 2012 but has never won at Augusta National, and Joaquin Niemann, who tied for 40th at last year’s event, are slated to play alongside Woods in the opening round of the competition.
Tiger Woods said he expected to play a nine-hole practise round on Wednesday after a brief practise session on Tuesday morning was cut short by heavy rain before 11 a.m. Woods said he practised briefly on Tuesday morning before heavy rain forced players off the course before 11 a.m. Also on Sunday and Monday, Woods played nine practise holes with Fred Couples and Justin Thomas for the second time in as many days. On Monday, Woods’ limp was more noticeable than it had been on Sunday. He walked slowly up the several hills, his stride becoming somewhat more hampered as he went.
Two of Woods’ closest friends, Couples, who has been playing with him on practise rounds for more than a decade, both agreed that the sloping, uneven contours of Augusta National will most certainly provide the most difficult task for Woods.
Woods, who won his first Masters championship 25 years ago this year, in 1997, has carefully tempered expectations — both from the golfing community and, perhaps more importantly, from himself — about his return to the PGA Tour at various moments since the accident.
A PGA Tour-sanctioned tournament, the 2020 Masters, was Woods’ penultimate appearance before the flu pandemic forced the event to be held in November rather than April due to the outbreak. Woods struggled in the competition and ended in a tie for 38th place. However, his success at the 2019 Masters, his first major event victory in 11 years, gives him the confidence to take on any challenge, including participating in this year’s Masters.
Woods was not considered a major candidate for the Masters that year after enduring repeated back and knee operations. However, he played his greatest golf in the final round, birdieing three of the last six holes to win his fifth Masters championship.
Given the severity of Woods’ injuries and the difficulties he will face on the course, it is impossible to see him capturing his sixth major championship in the coming days at Augusta National. However, Woods has shown in the past that he is difficult to predict.