Tiger Woods plans to play Masters and thinks he can win

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Two words can mean a lot when Tiger Woods is behind them.

No one would have been surprised if Woods had never played golf again after a car accident in Los Angeles that damaged his right leg so badly that he said doctors raised the possibility of an amputation. Away from the public eye for nine months, Woods raised hopes last November with a video of him rocking the club with a simple message, “Make progress.”

And here’s to Augusta National, making a Monday practice lap feel like a Sunday at a major tournament because of the gallery, walking the steeps, swinging well, and making it clear he’s got the hang of it. intend to play in the Masters.

Does he think he can win?

Woods offered the shortest answer of his press conference: “Yes.”

He said on Tuesday he planned to play and believed he could win. Never mind that it will be 508 days since the last time he played a tournament where he had to walk, or that he returns to that Masters with screws and rods still holding the bones in place in his right leg.

Woods is also 46 years old. He would be the oldest Masters champion by three weeks over Jack Nicklaus.

The bigger question is how he holds up over 18 holes for four consecutive days. Woods completed 18 holes last week – his first big test – on a reconnaissance trip with his 13-year-old son Charlie (including a stop at the Par 3 course).

He played the back nine on Sunday, the front nine on Monday.

Woods plans nine more for Wednesday, and then it’s “game time.” He is due to start at 10:34 a.m. Thursday with Louis Oosthuizen and Joaquin Niemann.

“I can hit him very well. I have no qualms about what I can do physically from a golf perspective,” Woods said. “The walk is the hardest part. It’s normally not an easy walk to start with. Now, given the conditions my leg is in, it becomes even more difficult.

“Seventy-two holes is a long road and it’s going to be a tough challenge,” he said. “And a challenge I’m up for.”

Perhaps that’s the main reason Woods is even at Augusta National for more than the sushi and miso-glazed cod and Wagyu beef that defending champ Hideki Matsuyama put on the menu at the champions-only dinner on Tuesday night. .

If he never plays – if he never wins – Woods said he’s happy with what he’s accomplished.

“I think 82 is a pretty good number,” Woods said. “And 15 isn’t too bad either.”

His 15 majors are second only to Jack Nicklaus and his 18, golf’s gold standard. He is tied with Sam Snead for the PGA Tour career record with 82 wins.

So why keep coming back? What else is there to prove?

“I love competition,” Woods said. “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.

“I don’t show up to an event unless I think I can win it. So that’s the attitude I had,” he said. “There will be a day when it doesn’t happen, and I will know it.”

Shortly after his speech, the departure times were published. Woods is helped by being part of the early-late rotation, which means he will have around 22 hours between rounds.

Otherwise, Tuesday was mostly a washout. Woods wasn’t planning on anything more than working on the lineup, anyway, and even that worked in his favor. Heavy storms hit Augusta around the time he finished his work, and the course was closed for the rest of the day.

As long as Woods is part of Masters lore – Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer once predicted he’d win more Green Jackets than the two combined (10) – the reality is rust from no serious competition and a body that’s suffered at least 10 surgeries on both legs and his back.

But he intends to play, and that seems enough. For now.

“I think the fact that I’ve been able to get here so far is a success,” Woods said. “And now that I’m playing, now it’s all focused on, ‘How do I get into the position where I’m on that back nine on Sunday with a chance?’ Like I did a few years ago.

It was in 2019, his fifth master title after four operations in the previous five years on his lower back.

“How many returns has it had?” Jordan Spieth asked in wonder.

There was the return of reconstructive knee surgery after winning the 2008 US Open. He won the world seven times the following year. There was a return to No. 1 after the implosion in his personal life and before back surgeries.

Nothing compares to this, mainly because of the walking involved on a leg so badly damaged that Woods spent three months in a hospital bed before transitioning to a wheelchair, crutches, a compression sleeve and still the occasional lameness.

“It’s amazing if you think about where he was a year ago,” Spieth said. “I don’t know how many people – if anyone – could be here. And it’s not an easy walk. So being here and not throwing his age into the mix, but I don’t think that helps much for this recovery.

“But is anyone surprised?”


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