The five-time champion at Augusta National made the announcement two days out from the tournament. He will play nine more practice holes on Wednesday night (AEST) before making a final decision, but will be doing so with the intention of playing.
“As of right now,” Woods said, “I feel like I’m going to play.”
Woods was asked if he believes he can win this week. “I do,” he said.
“I can hit it just fine,” Woods added. “I don’t have any qualms about what I can do physically from a golf standpoint. It’s now, walking’s the hard part. This is not an easy walk to begin with. Now given the condition that my leg is in, it gets a little more difficult. And 72 holes is a long road. It’s going to be a tough challenge and a challenge that I’m up for.”
There had been plenty of signals in recent days that Woods was on the cusp of deciding it was time to play again. He came to Augusta National for a practice round last week, then returned on Sunday (local time) — saying he’d be “a game-time decision” — and Monday for more. On Tuesday morning, with bad weather in the forecast, he spent plenty of time in the practice areas.
“It’s great to be back,” Woods said.
He’s scheduled to tee off on Thursday at 10.34 am (Friday 12.34am AEST) with Louis Oosthuizen and Joaquin Niemann. That threesome plays again on Friday starting at 1.41pm (Saturday 3.41am AEST).
Woods played in December at the PNC Challenge, a 36-hole scramble on a flat Florida course where he and his son Charlie finished second to John Daly and his son. Woods was allowed to use a cart in that event, and when those rounds were over he flatly dismissed any notion that his game was tour-ready again.
“I can’t compete against these guys right now, no,” Woods said on December 19. “It’s going to take a lot of work to get to where I feel like I can compete at these guys and be at a high level.”
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Just over three months later, Woods apparently feels differently. If he plays, he’ll be in the Masters for the 24th time; he’s finished in the top five 12 times in his previous 23 appearances.
“I love competing,” Woods said. “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.”
Thursday’s opening round would mark the first time Woods competes against the world’s best players since November 15, 2020, which was the final round of that year’s pandemic-delayed Masters.
He had his fifth back surgery two months later and was still recovering from that on February 23, 2021 when he crashed his SUV over a median on a suburban coastal road in Los Angeles and down the side of a hill.
Woods’ injuries from that crash were so severe that doctors considered right leg amputation, before reassembling the limb by placing a rod in the tibia and using screws and pins to stabilise additional injuries in the ankle and foot.
“It’s been a tough, tough year … but here we are,” Woods said.
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