Tiger Woods looks set to play the Masters after arriving in Augusta, Georgia on Sunday and being put on the Augusta National Golf Club’s pre-tournament interview list.
The 15-time Major winner arrived in Augusta, Georgia just before 2 p.m. local time (4 a.m. Monday AEST) on his private jet from Florida. It was thought he would report to Augusta National in the late afternoon for a practice session.
Moments after Woods arrived at Georgia State, Augusta National GC put the 2019 Masters champion on the interview schedule at 11 a.m. Tuesday.
A scheduled press conference and arrival on Sunday are strong indications the 46-year-old will play in the tournament despite tweeting that he would make a ‘match-time decision’ on whether to play departure Thursday.
Woods wouldn’t attempt four days of practice/practice rounds unless he was serious about playing the masters.
It’s remarkable that Woods even has a chance to play, just 14 months after suffering traumatic injuries to his right leg in a car accident in February 2021.
Arriving on Sunday for four days of practice/practice rounds is an indication that Woods is determined to play the Masters. He wouldn’t arrive four days early unless he was serious about competition.
He stopped fully committing to playing in the first major of the year, however, when he announced his trip on Twitter earlier on Sunday.
“I will be heading to Augusta today to continue my preparation and training,” Woods wrote on Twitter Sunday morning amid heavy speculation about his decision. “It will be a game-time decision whether I compete.”
Woods suffered comminuted open fractures to the tibia and fibula bones of his right leg as well as extensive nerve and soft tissue damage when he lost control of an SUV outside Los Angeles in February 2021 He underwent several emergency procedures at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and additional surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center before beginning an extensive rehabilitation process at his South Florida home.
The first signs of a comeback came in November, when Woods posted a three-second swing video to social media captioned “making progress.” He told Golf Digest later that month that he planned to return to the PGA Tour, but on a limited basis.
“I think something realistic is to play the tour one day – never full time, never again – but choose and choose, just like Mr. [Ben] Hogan did it,” Woods said. “Pick and choose a few events a year and you play around that.”
The Masters would top any hypothetical list of must-see tournaments for Woods, who never missed a cut at Augusta National as a professional. It is the site of his first major championship, his historic 12-stroke victory 25 years ago, in 1997; where he completed the Tiger Slam in 2001; and where he won his first major in nearly 11 years after back fusion surgery, in 2019.
Still, this year’s tournament seemed a long way off given the severity of Woods’ leg injuries. He surprised many when playing the PNC Challenge alongside his son, Charlie, in December, and generally impressed with his form but walked with a noticeable limp. He rode in a cart on a flat course that week, and the scrambling format allowed him to hit only shots he felt comfortable with. Woods has insisted he’s nowhere near competing at the PGA Tour level and reiterated that stance most recently at the Genesis Invitational.
“I’m much stronger than I was [at the PNC], I’m able to hit more shots,” Woods said in February. “But since I was referring to the PNC, I was in a cart. I can play warrior golf on weekends, it’s easy. But being here and playing, call it six rounds of golf, a practice round, pro-am, four days of competition, it’s the cumulative effect of it all. I am not able to do it yet. I’m still working to get to this point.
But with each passing day that Woods does not remove his name from the Masters domain, speculation grows that he could be pushing for a return to competition. Woods was spotted walking his home course, Medalist Golf Club, over the weekend and traveled to Augusta National on Tuesday to test his surgically reconstructed leg on the famous hilly course. He’s said countless times throughout his career that he doesn’t play a tournament unless he feels he can struggle, so he must have been encouraged by what he saw in that general repetition.
Woods has returned after a lengthy layoff at Augusta National several times before. In 2010, he played his first tournament since his marital scandal and finished tied for fourth. In 2015, he returned from a two-month injury absence and finished tied for 17th.