Behind the scenes

Tiger Woods at the Masters: golf’s ‘greatest ever comeback’ part two?

The 15-time major champion’s practice round at Augusta fuels speculation of a sensational return 

When Tiger Woods won the Masters Tournament in 2019 it was hailed by many golf fans and pundits as the “return of the king” and one of sport’s “greatest ever comebacks”. 

His fifth Masters victory, and 15th career major, came 11 years after his last major win and 14 years after his previous triumph at Augusta National. It was a remarkable return to the top after he had fallen to 1,199 in the world rankings in 2017 due to injuries, back surgery and dealing with personal issues.

Now, three years on from that victorious weekend, could the former world No.1 again be making another great comeback? Just 14 months ago Woods suffered serious leg injuries following a car crash in California and the 46-year-old American admitted that he felt “lucky to be alive”. 

‘He looked good to me’

Woods has not played any competitive golf since the car crash in February last year. However, the prospect of him making an “incredible” return at the Masters next week has increased after he played a practice round at Augusta on Tuesday, The Guardian said. As Woods’s private jet touched down in Georgia, “bookmakers immediately slashed his odds of claiming what would be a sixth Green Jacket to around 50-1”.

Woods is listed among the expected 91 participants for the Masters, which takes place from 7-10 April. “He’s yet to officially say whether he’s playing”, ESPN reported. But there’s been “stirring anticipation” on social media that he was preparing to play in the Masters.

Because of its “many hills and length”, Augusta is considered “one of the most difficult walks in competitive golf”, the sports website added. But Woods completed all 18 holes with son Charlie and PGA Tour pro Justin Thomas. “He played every one of them,” a source told ESPN. “He looked good to me.”

‘Master of creating mystery’

It appears that Woods used the practice round with Thomas, a close friend of the family, as “a fitness test to see whether he will be able to make a sensational return at the first men’s major of the year”, said the BBC’s Iain Carter. He has until next week to decide whether he will compete and his participation is “likely to depend on how his body reacts to the rigours of playing Augusta’s severely undulating 18 holes” on Tuesday.

In December Woods revealed that he had a goal to play the 150th Open at St Andrews in Scotland in July. But when hosting the Genesis Invitational tournament on the PGA Tour in February, he wished he could say when he would return. “My golf activity has been very limited, it takes time,” he said. “What’s frustrating is it’s not at my timetable. I’ve just got to continue working. I’m getting better, yes. But as I said, not at the speed and rate that I would like. You add in the age factor, too. You just don’t quite heal as fast, which is frustrating.”

While he is the “master of creating mystery”, said The Guardian’s Ewan Murray, the fact that Woods is “willing to visit Augusta at this juncture” means he regards the possibility of playing in the 86th Masters as “a serious one”.

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