Tiger Woods looks ready to manage the challenge of walking 72 holes at Augusta National only 14 months after suffering severe right-leg injuries in a car crash.
That’s what rivals of the 15-time Major champion said on Monday as Woods played his first public practice round ahead of his “game-time decision” about whether or not to attempt a comeback at The Masters.
“He looked good walking,” said 1992 Masters winner Fred Couples of Woods after playing nine holes with Woods on Monday. “The way he looked, it’s very impressive. The course is brutal to walk.”
Couples said Woods “is never going to let you know he’s in pain” but his game didn’t suffer if he was.
“He was bombing it,” Couples said. “He didn’t miss many shots, drove it great … this guy, he’s just unreal.
Cameron Davis, an Australian who played the final five holes with Woods in a Sunday practice round, said the five-time Masters winner was “still a little slow going up a couple of hills on 17 and 18”.
“He’s striking it well. He’s hitting it far enough to play the holes the way you need to play them. I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t be able to put rounds together out here.”
Woods said he was lucky to survive a February 2021 automobile accident in Southern California and not have his right leg amputated.
He battled through rehabilitation to give himself the chance to play this week, walking confidently on Monday as spectators screamed their support for his comeback bid.
A start by Woods in Thursday’s opening round would be among the more astonishing injury fightbacks in sports history, the five-time Masters champion not having played since defending his title at the 2020 Masters, played in November due to Covid-19.
“He’s hitting the shots you should hit,” Davis said. “He was playing well. Everything was looking pretty solid. It will be great to see him out here if he decides to tee it up on Thursday.
“Just looked like the work he’s been putting in has set him up pretty well for this week if he feels ready.”
Four-time Major winner Brooks Koepka, seeking his first Green Jacket, played last year’s Masters two weeks after knee surgery and struggled getting around the layout.
“This place isn’t exactly an easy walk. I understand what he’s up against. It’ll be difficult. But if anybody can do it, it’s him.”
Koepka said he needed painkillers to combat the pain last year.
“I had to get shot up just to play last year. It’s difficult enough to walk,” Koepka said.
“I don’t know everything he’s going through … I just know it’s difficult walking this place when you don’t have the same body parts you’re used to.
“It’s a Major championship, it’s Augusta. Doesn’t matter how much pain you’re in, you figure out a way. He’ll figure out a way. If anybody can do it, he can.”
Woods has battled back from knee and back injuries for most of his career, overcoming spinal fusion to win the 2019 Masters.
“He has come back so many times from injury, so he’s an inspiration to all of us,” 2012 US Open winner Webb Simpson said. “Just an amazing will inside of him … so it’s really cool that he’s making this week the push to come back after that car wreck.”
Australia’s sixth-ranked Cameron Smith can’t wait to watch Woods.
“It would be massive,” Smith said. “I’m sure he’s dying to get out here. He’s a competitor and he’s looking to take people down.”
© Agence France-Presse