When the 2022 Masters field is announced, it is expected that Tiger Woods would make a victorious comeback to the sport of golf. Woods indicated as much Tuesday during his formal press conference at Augusta National — this after multiple days of practise at Augusta, including a trip with his son, Charlie, and Justin Thomas last week. On Thursday morning, the Masters lineup was confirmed at 91 players, with Tiger Woods among them, despite the fact that Woods had not formally announced that his first competitive shot since the 2020 Masters would take place at 11:04 a.m. ET.
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Woods has looked strong and healthy all week, both in the practice area and on the course. Every assessment — even those from his peers — has been positive in terms of the way he is carrying himself on the course he has owned for the previous 25 years.
A comeback by Tiger Woods, who hasn’t played an official tournament in 17 months and was almost killed in a car accident only 14 months ago, has sent off a wave of ecstasy. Galleries on Monday for his first public practise round looked like the tail end of a major tournament. The other day, I waited in a line five rows deep to get a sight of him stumbling through practise putts at a nearby practise green. Putting in the hours!
Reigning US Open champion Jon Rahm said, “You can feel it,” in a statement. “It’s palpable. A lot of it is Tiger. Because Tony Finau was my front-nine partner the day before. We were around four or five holes ahead. … I’ve never seen a mob of this size, even on a Sunday in contention, in the vicinity of those two holes… There’s a lot more oomph in the air because of Tiger’s presence, as well. There were times when Mondays seemed like weekends in a regular occurrence.”
When he declared Sunday he would be a “game-time decision” and didn’t commit until the week of the actual tournament, Woods had a lot of work to do this week. With his back — which has had almost half a dozen operations — and right leg — which hasn’t played four rounds of a tournament in over two years — under the most extreme strain possible, Tiger has to get his swing back in shape.
It’s not good news for a 46-year-old trying to get his body revved up to play 72 holes in a week of chilly, damp, and windy conditions at Augusta this week.
“Walking is the most difficult aspect of the journey. My leg is in bad shape, so it’s always a challenge to walk, but now it’s much more so “he said. “There are 72 holes on this course. It’s going to be a difficult task, but one that I’m willing to take on.”
On December 31, 2021, during the Hero World Challenge, an event for which Woods serves as an honorary chairman, Woods was seen on camera swinging a golf club while participating in a practise round. On that occasion, he was questioned for the first time in public and regarding the events of February. A video from the driving range showed him swinging like an expert, despite his claims that he was a long way from returning to competitive golf.
Then, in December, we got a glimpse of that swing in action when Woods and his son competed in the PNC Championship and came close to winning. It was a laid-back tournament on an easy course, but Tiger Woods still managed to hit some genuinely stunning shots. He’s been emphatic his comeback to professional golf isn’t imminent for the whole time he was out.
Tiger deliberately lowered everyone’s expectations, and now he’s jumped over them.
Woods has already had his first back surgery when his spine was fused together in February 2021, so his recuperation has been doubly challenging over the previous 15 months.
“I’m really fortunate,” Tiger Woods remarked at the Genesis Invitational in February. “As many of you know, I was unsure whether or not I would be able to walk again. It’s a big relief to have my right leg here. Still, I’m grateful for the opportunity to have one of my own. I’m grateful for the surgeons, physicians, and nurses who helped us through the many surgeries and rehabilitations we through. The physical therapy sessions are torturous, but my body is still mine, and for that, I’m grateful.”
Even if Tiger doesn’t win the Masters this year, he can still make the cut and play the weekend at Augusta, and that’s a possibility. This is a remarkable development for a person we rarely saw in 2021.
Augusta isn’t out of the usual for Tiger Woods, either. To date, he has played in 21 professional events and has made all 21 cuts, finished in the top 10 14 times, and won five green jackets, the most recent of which came during his most recent trip to Augusta National in April of 2019 when he defeated Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele, and Brooks Koepka to win the 15th and most recent major championship of his career.
“It’s a different challenge, but my back surgeries that I’ve had before and the stuff I’ve had to play through—even going back to the US Open when I was a little bit busted—those are all times that I can draw upon where I was successful where I’ve blocked things out and focused on what I need to focus on,” he said.
This week, Tiger Woods claims, he is focused on winning rather than just making a show of being at the tournament.
“I’m a big fan of competition. I intend to compete at the greatest level if I believe I am capable of doing so “On Tuesday, Woods made the statement. “When it comes to competing, I don’t turn up unless I believe that I can win. When it doesn’t happen, I’ll know when it doesn’t.”
As a result, Thursday’s No. 1 tee time for Tiger Woods will be a joy to watch and a moment of celebration for both him and the sport.