Tiger Woods. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Tiger Woods was poised to launch his boldest Masters bid yet on Thursday, a quarter-century after his 12-shot triumph at Augusta National ushered in a new era in golf.
Then 21-year-old Woods cemented his superstar status with a record-breaking win that made him the youngest Masters winner and snatched the first of his current 15 major titles.
His search for number 16 comes 14 months after Woods suffered career-threatening injuries to his lower right leg in a February 2021 car accident in California.
The 46-year-old, who has slipped to 973 in the world rankings, couldn’t even confirm as of Tuesday he plans to serve, but make no mistake, Woods has his sights set on a record-breaking sixth Masters win.
“I only show up to an event when I think I can win it,” Woods said, expressing complete confidence in every aspect of his game.
The challenge is to run the hilly, 7,510-yard Augusta National Course for four days.
“That’s going to be the challenge, and it’s going to be the challenge of a big marathon,” said Woods, who couldn’t run for months.
Woods tees off alongside South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen and Chile’s Joaquin Niemann at 10:34 a.m. (4:34 p.m. Southeast) on Thursday.
Niemann, who won the Woods-hosted Genesis Invitational on the Riviera in February, was not born when Woods won his first Masters title in 1997.
But he is one of a number of young golfers whose careers have been inspired by Woods.
Scottie Scheffler, 25, reached Augusta as the world number one ranked player after winning his first three US PGA Tour titles in a two-month span.
Spain’s US Open champion Jon Rahm, 27, can regain the number one he ceded with a maiden Masters win to Scheffler, one of five players to take on the American this week alongside reigning British Open champion Collin Morikawa, US PGA FedEx Cup champions who can oust Patrick Cantlay, rising Norwegian star Viktor Hovland and Australia’s Cameron Smith.
Northern Ireland’s four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy will be looking to end a career grand slam with a Masters win for the eighth time, while defending champion Hideki Matsuyama of Japan has been grappling with fitness issues as he tries to tackle Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Joining others is Woods as the only player to win back-to-back Masters titles.
Matsuyama tees off in the group after Woods at 10:45. Rahm tees off alongside Cantlay and Will Zalatoris at 1:41 p.m. (7:41 p.m. Southeast), followed by Hovland, in a group with Spieth and Tokyo Olympic gold medalist Xander Schauffele 1:52. McIlroy is in the final group of the day alongside four-time Major winner Brooks Koepka and England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick.
The action officially begins at 07:40 (13:40 SE time) when honor starters Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tom Watson take the ceremonial first tees.
But all focus is on Woods and whether he can pull off the most miraculous comeback yet in a career defined by both his grim determination to defy pain and his sublime skill.
“It’s amazing when you think about where he was from a year ago to now, I don’t know how many people, if any, could be out here,” said 2015 Masters winner Jordan Spieth. “But is anyone surprised?”
Woods won the 2008 US Open with a broken leg and then struggled through five back surgeries, most recently a spinal fusion, before winning his 15th major title at the 2019 Masters.
“I mean, how many comebacks has he had?” Spieth was amazed.
Fred Couples, the 1992 Masters champion, who has played his fair share of rounds — and also missed his fair share — with back problems, said Woods “looked phenomenal” in practice rounds that had guests at the Augusta National buzzing with excitement.
“What impresses me the most is that he bombed it,” Couples said of Woods’ length from the tee.
Former PGA champion Justin Thomas, whom Woods refers to as his “little brother” on tour, says Woods’ game is “a lot, good enough to play well.”
So Woods will once again brave the pain and look to defy the odds to get one step closer to Nicklaus’ all-time record of 18 major titles.
He would become the third-oldest Major winner in history, surpassing Nicklaus as the oldest Masters winner by a few weeks.
“I love to compete,” Woods said of his motivation. “And I feel like I can still compete at the highest level that I’m going to reach. And if I feel like I can still win, I’ll play.”
And does he therefore believe that he can celebrate his most unlikely triumph so far this Sunday?
“I do,” Woods said.
Woods defies all odds in his quest for his 6th Masters title
Source link Woods defies all odds in his quest for his 6th Masters title