Tiger Woods appears set to play the Masters after arriving in Augusta, Georgia on Sunday and being included on Augusta National Golf Club’s pre-tournament interview list.
The 15-time Major winner arrived in Augusta, Georgia just before 2pm local time (4am Monday AEST) on his private jet from Florida. It was believed he would show up at Augusta National late afternoon for a practice session.
Moments after Woods arrived in the state of Georgia, Augusta National GC listed the 2019 Masters champion on the interview schedule for 11am on Tuesday.
A slated press conference and a Sunday arrival are strong indications the 46-year-old will play in the tournament despite tweeting he would make a “game-time decision” on whether he’ll tee off on Thursday.
Woods would not attempt four days of practice/practice rounds unless he was serious about playing the Masters.
It is remarkable Woods is even a chance of playing, just 14 months after sustaining traumatic injuries to his right leg in a single-car accident in February 2021.
Arriving on Sunday for four days of practice/practice rounds is an indication Woods is determined to play the Masters. He would not arrive four days early unless he was serious about competing.
He did, however, stop short of fully committing to playing in the year’s first major when he announced his journey on Twitter earlier on Sunday.
“I will be heading up to Augusta today to continue my preparation and practice,” Woods wrote on Twitter Sunday morning amid heavy speculation over his decision. “It will be a game-time decision on whether I compete.”
Woods suffered comminuted open fractures to both the tibia and fibula bones in 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 multiple emergency procedures at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and additional surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center before beginning an extensive rehabilitation process at his home in South Florida.
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 that is realistic is playing the tour one day—never full time, ever again—but pick and choose, just like Mr. [Ben] Hogan did,” Woods said. “Pick and choose a few events a year and you play around that.”
The Masters would top any hypothetical list of must-play tournaments for Woods, who has never missed a cut at Augusta National as a professional. It is the site of his first major championship, his historic 12-shot win 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 shot given the severity of Woods’ leg injuries. He surprised many by playing in 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 scramble format allowed him to only hit shots he felt comfortable with. Woods insisted that he was a long way from competing at the PGA Tour level and reiterated that stance more recently at the Genesis Invitational.
“I’m a lot stronger than I was [at the PNC], I’m able to hit more shots,” Woods said in February. “But as I was alluding to at the PNC, I was in a cart. I can play weekend warrior golf, that’s easy. But to be able to be out here and play, call it six rounds of golf, a practice round, pro-am, four competitive days, it’s the cumulative effect of all that. I’m not able to do that yet. I’m still working on getting to that point.”
But with each passing day that Woods did not withdraw his name from the Masters field, speculation grew that he could be pushing for a return to competition. Woods was spotted walking his home course, Medalist Golf Club, over the weekend and made a trip to Augusta National on Tuesday to test his surgically rebuilt leg on the famously undulating track. He has said countless times throughout his career that he does not play a tournament unless he feels he can contend, so he must have been encouraged by what he saw during that dress rehearsal of sorts.
Woods has returned after an extended layoff at Augusta National multiple times before. In 2010, he played his first tournament since his marital scandal and tied for fourth. In 2015, he returned from a two-month injury absence and tied for 17th.