Tiger Woods Will Make ‘Game-Time Decision’ on Playing the Masters

AUGUSTA, Ga. — In a career of impressive comebacks, Tiger Woods continues to work toward attempting his most remarkable return to golf yet.

Thirteen months after a car crash left him with devastating leg injuries, Woods said that he would travel to Augusta on Sunday to to continue practicing before the start of the Masters Tournament, beginning on Thursday at Augusta National Golf Club.

“I will be heading up to Augusta today to continue my preparation and practice,” Woods wrote in a post on social media. “It will be a game-time decision on whether I compete.”

Woods, a 15-time major champion with a reputation for willing himself to victory under the most challenging circumstances, has been undergoing rehabilitation on his surgically rebuilt right leg since his sport utility vehicle tumbled off a Los Angeles-area boulevard at a high speed on Feb. 23, 2021.

On Tuesday, Woods flew from his home in Florida to Augusta on his private jet with his 12-year-old son, Charlie, according to people who were familiar with Woods’s schedule but who were not authorized to discuss it publicly. He played an 18-hole practice round at Augusta National with Justin Thomas, a PGA Tour pro who is also Woods’s neighbor and close friend.

The length of the course and its unforgiving elevation changes would be a daunting challenge for Woods. On Wednesday, in a conference call with reporters, Curtis Strange, the two-time U.S. Open champion who is now a golf analyst for ESPN, called Augusta National “the hardest walk in golf.”

Another two-time winner of the U.S. Open, Andy North, who is also an ESPN commentator, said he thought the British Open would be a likely place to return to competition for Woods because this year’s venue — St. Andrews — is “flat and it’s an easy walk.”

“Augusta is the last place you would have thought he could possibly play,” North said.

But Woods, who won his first Masters title 25 years ago, in 1997, has carefully managed expectations — of the golf world and, perhaps, of his own — for a return to the tour at several points since the crash.

In mid-February, before the Genesis Invitational, Woods said in a news conference that he had worked mostly on chipping, putting and short irons, but had not spent time “seriously” on his long game because of his right leg.

“I’m still working on the walking part,” Woods said then. “My foot was a little messed up there about a year ago, so the walking part is something that I’m still working on, working on strength and development in that. It takes time. What’s frustrating is it’s not at my timetable. I want to be at a certain place, but I’m not. I’ve just got to continue working. I’m getting better, yes. But as I said, not at the speed and rate that I would like. You add in the age factor, too. You just don’t quite heal as fast, which is frustrating.”

In mid-November, in his first public appearance since the accident, Woods cast doubt on his ability to return to a physical condition that would allow him to be competitive and win on the PGA Tour.

Woods, who on Nov. 21 posted a short video on social media of himself taking a swing, said he hoped to play competitive golf again at some point, but offered no timetable for doing so, and ruled out a full-time return to the PGA Tour.

“I got that last major,” Woods said Nov. 30 at a news conference, recalling his stunning 2019 victory at the Masters, golf’s most watched event, at age 43.

Woods sustained open fractures, in several places, of the tibia and the fibula in his right leg. He spent a month in the hospital, and doctors had considered the possibility that his leg might have to be amputated.

“I’ve had a pretty good run,” Woods said in November, then nine months removed from the crash. He added: “I don’t see that type of trend going forward for me. It’s going to have to be a different way. I’m at peace with that. I’ve made the climb enough times.”

Woods after a missed shot on No. 2 during the final round at the 2020 Masters.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Apparently not.

At the 2020 Masters, played in November rather than April because of the pandemic, 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 outcome — even his return to the Masters next week — seem possible.

After undergoing multiple back and knee surgeries, Woods was not considered a serious contender that year, yet through the final round he played his best golf, birdieing three of the final six holes to win his fifth Masters title. When he sank the winning putt on the 18th hole, he celebrated with a primal scream as thousands of fans encircling the green roared.

Two years earlier, Woods had ranked as low as 1,119th in the world. His comeback, given his off-the-course hardships then, is among the greatest in sports history.

Does he have another one in him?

In December, Woods played 36 holes with his son Charlie at the PNC Championship. The scramble format allowed for the use of a cart, and Woods walked with a limp and struggled on some drives to push off with his right leg. On many holes, he declined to hit shots from difficult or uneven lies that would have put added stress on his right leg. Since Charlie’s ball was often in the best position, Woods could pick and choose when to participate.

In the moments before his 2021 crash, Woods was speeding. The police said he was traveling about 85 miles per hour in a 45 m.p.h. zone when he lost control, crossing a median and hitting the curb on the opposite side of the road. The vehicle struck a tree at an estimated 75 m.p.h., and went airborne before stopping in some brush.

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