Tiger Woods has confirmed he plans to make his long-awaited return to action at The Masters on Thursday.
Woods has not featured in a top-level event since playing at Augusta National in November 2020, with the former world No 1 unable to compete on the PGA Tour since suffering career-threatening injuries in a serious car crash last February.
The 15-time major champion made an impressive comeback alongside his son, Charlie, at the PNC Championship in December but was still non-committal on a return date when discussing his future at the Genesis Invitational in February, saying he “didn’t know” when he would next compete.
Woods fuelled speculation about a major return when he went for a practice round at Augusta last week, before returning to Georgia for more time on the course on Sunday, after which he said he would make “a game-time decision” on whether he would compete.
Following further practice time on Monday, the five-time champion announced on Tuesday he is ready to tee it up at The Masters, starting on Thursday live on Sky Sports.
“As of right now I feel like I am going to play,” Woods told the media on Tuesday. “I’m going to play nine more holes tomorrow. My recovery has been good. I’ve been very excited about how I’ve recovered each and every day.”
Woods described his rehabilitation as the toughest of his career, admitting his initial goal was “just looking forward to getting outside” after being immobile for several months. Woods was initially wheelchair-bound before slowly transitioning to crutches and then walking unaided.
Tiger Woods has confirmed he plans to make his long-awaited return to action at The Masters on Thursday! 👏 pic.twitter.com/nkG6sPpntI
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) April 5, 2022
Updates on Woods’ condition were limited for most of 2021 and he was only spotted in public occasionally during his recuperation, with a return to the sport seeming unlikely until a few weeks ago.
“There is pain each and every day obviously, given what I’ve gone through with my back and obviously with my right leg,” Woods added. “The fact that I was able to get myself here at this point was a success and now that I am playing, everything is focused on getting in that position on the back nine on Sunday with a chance like I did a few years ago.”
“I feel like I can still do it. I still have the hands to do it, the body is moving good enough. I have been in worse situations and won tournaments. Now, I haven’t been in situations like this where I’ve had to walk and endure what I’m going to try and endure, that’s going to be different.
“But my back surgeries that I’ve had before and the stuff I had to play through, even going back to the US Open when my leg was a little bit busted, those are all times that I can draw upon where I was successful, how I’ve learned to block things out and focus on what I need to focus on.
“I think 82 is a pretty good number and 15’s not too bad either. 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. But if I feel like I can’t, then you won’t see me out here. You guys know me better than that. I don’t show up to an event unless I think I can win it.
“That’s the attitude I’ve had. There will be a day when it won’t happen, and I’ll know when that is, but physically the challenge this week is I don’t have to worry about the ball striking or the game of golf, it’s actually just the hills out here. That’s going to be the challenge, and it’s going to be a challenge of a major marathon.”
Woods’ record at Augusta
This year’s contest is the 25th anniversary of Woods’ maiden major success, with his 12-shot victory in 1997 remaining the largest winning margin in the history of The Masters.
Woods claimed a two-shot triumph in 2001, seeing him complete the “Tiger Slam” and become the first to hold all four majors concurrently, and he then successfully defended his title a year later to join Jack Nicklaus and Sir Nick Faldo as the only back-to-back winners.
He recovered from seven strokes off the pace after the opening day in 2005 to beat Chris DiMarco in a play-off for a fourth victory, before waiting another 14 years for further Masters glory. Woods’ success in 2019 came 11 years on from his previous major title as he signalled the end of an injury-plagued few years to register a one-shot victory.