Excitement at Augusta: Woods returning to the Masters? | free press

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Is Tiger Woods really in competition? This question electrified the golf world shortly before the start of the legendary Augusta Masters.

One of America’s best-known sportscasters summed up the turmoil around the man, who was world number one for 683 weeks during his extraordinary career: If Woods were to compete, “then you can all play naked and no one would notice him,” ESPN presenter Scott Van Pelt joked.

There is an exceptional atmosphere around the historic Augusta National Golf Club. 14 months after the 46-year-old Californian superstar suffered a serious car accident in which he even had to fear the loss of his right leg, the possible return of the 15-time major winner at the first major tournament of the year is the first topic of conversation.

Decision shortly before the start of the tournament

But only Tiger Woods himself can answer that. He hasn’t decided yet. He still leaves everyone fussing. “There will be a decision shortly before the start of the tournament as to whether I will participate,” he previously said via Twitter. The Masters starts this Thursday. As a former champion, Woods has the lifetime right to compete.

A small report of a secret training ride at the magnificent Magnolia Lane facility in the US state of Georgia just over a week ago sparked huge hype. Along with his son Charlie and good friend Justin Thomas, Woods had played all 18 holes of the course. Last Sunday, he traveled to Augusta again to resume preparation for the tournament.

Practicing the trick further fuels the hype

“He looked like the tiger we saw before the accident,” enthused PGA pro Billy Horschel, who watched Woods hit balls at Augusta. The golf swing and speed are back. Tournament organizers then hastily shared a minute-long video clip of Woods’ workout on social media, further fueling the hype.

But the key question for Woods will be: how is his right leg? Can he put all his weight on his leg which was broken several times in the accident? Can he walk again without any problem? The par 72 golf course is one of the hilliest courses on the US Tour and requires a healthy dose of fitness from the pros. “He looked phenomenal,” said 1992 Masters winner Fred Couples after a brief round with Woods. “If he can run 72 holes here, he can keep up. He’s just too good.”

A very special love

Woods and the Augusta National Golf Club – it’s a very special love. 25 years ago, Woods made golf history at the Masters with his first major victory. In 1997 he won his first of five Masters titles by a record twelve strokes. Also in 2001, 2002 and 2005, the American star was able to wear the green jacket of the winner. The number five title followed in 2019. After decades of suffering with personal lows, injuries and numerous surgeries, this was one of the biggest and most emotional comebacks in sports history.

His last official PGA tournament was the Masters in November 2020, which did not take place on the usual date in the spring of that year due to the corona pandemic. The serious accident then happened in February 2021. Woods went off the road south of Los Angeles, rolled over several times and suffered complicated fractures in his right leg. He was hospitalized for three weeks and then in a hospital bed at his home in Florida for another three months. Then he started rehab.

But anyone who knows the ambitious Californian knows that playing in a tournament is not his thing. Woods wants to win every tournament he enters. If he made it to this year’s Masters, it would be Tiger Woods’ next fairytale comeback. (dpa)

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