August, Ga. — About 14 months after the car accident that led to doctors weighing the amputation of a leg, Tiger Woods said Tuesday that he intended to play in the Masters Tournament.
Woods, a five-time winner of the event at Augusta National Golf Club, had hinted in recent days that he might play in the tournament, which begins Thursday. But his announcement, during a news conference in Augusta on Tuesday morning, represented the most definitive public step toward returning to the rigors of competition on the most spectacular and traditional stages of his game.
“From now on, I feel like I’m going to play,” Woods, 46, said Tuesday. Asked if he believed he could win his sixth green jacket at Augusta on Sunday, Woods replied, “Yes, I do.”
“I love competing, and I feel like if I can still compete at the highest level, I will,” Woods said, later adding that he wouldn’t “show up at an event unless I think I can win it. ”
Woods said he had no doubts about his ability to play. The concern, he said, was the topographical hazards of Augusta and the demands of the 72-hole tournament: “The walking is the hard part.”
Woods, who said he would navigate nine holes Wednesday before the formal start of the tournament the next day, played practice rounds Sunday and Monday at Augusta National, the second with Fred Couples and Justin Thomas. Woods limped more noticeably on Monday than on Sunday. He climbed the many hills slowly at his slightly more inhibited pace.
Couples, a longtime friend and frequent practice-round partner of Woods for more than a decade, said hiking 72 holes of hilly terrain during a four-round tournament would likely present Woods’ biggest challenge.
“It’s about walking,” Couples said. “It’s brutal to walk up and go do that after what happened, whatever it was, 14 months ago, and play today?
“You can always have pain, right. He is a tough guy. He will never let you know that he is suffering.”
Overall, Couples was impressed with the way Woods played.
“He looked phenomenal,” Couples said. “He drove it very, very well, like a machine. His irons were good. He’s Tiger Woods, so of course he knows how to kick. He is just unreal. If he can not exaggerate. If he doesn’t get too excited, which is easier said than done.
“But if he can walk around here for 72 holes, he will compete. It is too good.
Woods has been undergoing arduous rehabilitation on his surgically reconstructed right leg since his sport utility vehicle went down at high speed on a Los Angeles-area boulevard on February 23, 2021. He suffered open fractures, in multiple places, of the tibia and the fibula of his right leg. He spent a month in the hospital and doctors had considered the possibility that his leg might have to be amputated.
But Woods, who won his first Masters title 25 years ago in 1997, has carefully managed expectations — from the golf world and, perhaps, his own — to return to the PGA Tour at various points since the accident.
“I’m still working on the walking part,” Woods said in mid-February, in his first public appearance since the accident. “My foot was a little damaged there about a year ago, so the walking part is something I’m still working on, working on strength and building on that. It takes time.”
Woods’ last appearance at a PGA Tour-sanctioned event was at the 2020 Masters, which was played in November instead of April due to the pandemic. At that event, Woods struggled and finished tied for 38th. But it was the 2019 Masters, his first major tournament victory in 11 years, that would make any challenge, even competing at this year’s Masters, seem possible.
After undergoing multiple back and knee surgeries, Woods was not considered a serious contender that year, but during the final round he played his best golf, birdieing three of the last six holes to win his fifth Masters title.