Tiger Woods announced Sunday that he continues to prepare for the 2022 Masters with his participation in the tournament ultimately being a “game-time decision”. Woods, who was involved on a horrific one-car wreck in February 2021, is aiming to play his first official event since November 2020 when he last participated in a Masters delayed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Woods recently indicated that he’s grateful just to have all his limbs intact. Now, he’s possibly going to tee it up at the Augusta National for the 24th time in his astounding career.
“I will be heading up to Augusta [Sunday] to continue my preparation and practice. It will be a game-time decision on whether I compete,” he wrote in a tweet.
Woods practiced at Augusta National earlier this week with his son, Charlie, and Justin Thomas. The goal was to test his health in an attempt to play the Masters, but he apparently came back from that practice undecided about whether he could tee it up in the main event on Thursday.
There’s a lot to work through. Not only does Tiger need for his swing to be in order, but his back — that has incurred nearly a half-dozen surgeries — and a right leg that hasn’t endured four rounds of tournament play in nearly two years will have to hold up under the most intense pressure imaginable.
The first hint that this might happen came at the end of 2021 when Woods was filmed hitting balls at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, where he was the event host. That happened to be his first public appearance and the first time he was asked any questions about what happened in February. Throughout that week, he insisted that he was a long way from playing competitive golf again, but videos from the driving range told the story of somebody whose swing still looked terrific.
Then we saw it live in December when Woods played the PNC Championship with his son and nearly won the tournament. It was a laid-back event on an easy golf course, but Woods still hit some truly eye-popping shots.
All along, he has been adamant that his return to professional golf was not imminent. Tiger purposefully set expectations in the dirt for everyone involved, and now he has leaped over them.
Prior to the car accident Woods had in February 2021, he underwent an additional back surgery at the beginning of that year — his first back surgery after his spine was fused together — so his recovery period has been doubly difficult over the last 15 months.
“I’m very lucky, very lucky,” said Woods in February at the Genesis Invitational. “As a lot of you guys know, I didn’t know if I was going to have the right leg or not. So, to be able to have my right leg still here, it’s huge. I still have a lot of issues with it, but it’s mine, and I’m very thankful for that. Thankful for all the surgeons and doctors and nurses that, for all the countless surgeries that we went through and countless rehabs and the PT sessions are brutal, but it’s still mine and I’m very thankful for that.”
There is little chance that Tiger is going to be competitive at this year’s Masters even if he does play — he said recently that he had to work to build up to that win in 2019 — but he’s wise enough and smart enough at Augusta National that making the cut and playing the weekend is not out of the question. It would be quite a turn of events for somebody who we barely saw in 2021.
It would also not be out of the ordinary for Woods at Augusta. In 21 events as a professional, he’s made all 21 cuts, finished in the top 10 an extraordinary 14 times and won five green jackets, the most recent of which coincided with his last April trip to Augusta back in 2019 when he defeated Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele and Brooks Koepka for the 15th major championship of his career.
Because Woods knows that he likely won’t be super competitive at this year’s Masters, playing at all represents a shift for him from past comebacks. He would be playing because he wants to play, not because he has a realistic chance of winning the golf tournament.
That actually would be a delight to see and a celebratory moment both for him and for the sport.
Regardless of whether he plays in the Masters, Tiger will be in town for the Champions Dinner, so we will almost certainly see him play the golf course for the first few days of the week before he makes a final decision about the 86th Masters.