72 holes is a long road but Woods is ready to walk it, tee up and expects to win

Masters champion Tiger Woods speaks to the media in a press conference in the Interview Room during practice round 2 for the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club, Tuesday, April 5, 2022. Pic: Augusta National

Augusta, GA, April 5: Getting to the start line has never been a goal for Tiger Woods. He just needs to be there first at the finish. A week ago, his former coach, Hank Haney tweeted, “If Tiger can walk again, he can win again.”

Somewhere during the media interaction, he says, “This is normally not an easy walk to begin with. Now given the conditions that my leg is in, it gets even more difficult.”

For good measure, he added, “You know, 72 holes is a long road, and it’s going to be a tough challenge and a challenge that I’m up for.”

The Augusta National Golf Course is a tough one to walk around. It is more hilly than it seems on the TV and as Woods said, “If I’m in a fairway, it’s all good. The only flat spots out here are the 18 tee boxes. Other than that, there’s nothing flat about this place.”

Woods has made countless comebacks, but most have come at events with fields not as strong as a Major especially the Masters. They have come at events like his own Hero World Challenge, an event where he is the host and the field is 18-20 and at venues, which don’t draw massive crowds.

On Monday, when Woods was playing with Justin Thomas and Freddie Couples, there a massive crowd and there was much cheering. The Masters, as also Woods, seemed re-energised. After two low-key Masters in 2020 and 2021, here it was Woods back on the course and the spectators were back in full.

“I’ve worked hard. My team has been unbelievable. I’ve been lucky to have great surgeons and great PTs (Physical Trainers) and physios that have worked on me virtually every day. We’ve worked hard to get to this point, to get to this opportunity to walk the grounds, test it out, and see if I can do this.”

When he talked about difficulty in walking does he worry about slipping? I don’t worry about slipping. I’ve got metals in, so I don’t have to worry about that. Even with the rain, it doesn’t really concern me.”

He talked of his limited mobility and the change in his footwear (from Nike to FootJoy), he said, “Well, I have very limited mobility now. Just with the rods and plates and screws that are in my leg, I needed something different, something that allowed me to be more stable. That’s what I’ve gone to.”

On when he will finally decide that he will play, he gave an answer that seemed “he will” but he was still hedging his answer.

“Well, as of right now, I feel like I am going to play, as of right now. I’m going to play nine more holes tomorrow. My recovery has been good. I’ve been very excited about how I’ve recovered each and every day, and that’s been the challenge. That’s why I came up here and tested it out for 27 holes because we play the par-3 course. Charlie couldn’t help himself. I was able to play 27 holes that day and at home testing it.”

He is also looking forward to the Champions Dinner, for which he has decided the Menu on five occasions. He said, “Tonight is the night of all nights to see all the guys again and listen to all the chiding and the stuff that I can’t ever repeat here and we don’t ever repeat, but the fact of what we’re able to say to each other is just awesome.”

At the Hero World Challenge in Bahamas last December, he spoke about the satisfaction of having come back and won the Masters (in 2019), so he was at peace with what the future had for him.

To that he added here, “Well, I love competing, and I feel like if I can still compete at the highest level, I’m going to, and if I feel like I can still win, I’m going to play. But if I feel like I can’t, then you won’t see me out here. You guys know me better than that.”

“I don’t show up to an event unless I think I can win it. So that’s the attitude I’ve had. There will be a day when it won’t happen, and I’ll know when that is, but physically the challenge this week is I don’t have to worry about the ball striking or the game of golf, it’s actually just the hills out here. That’s going to be the challenge, and it’s going to be a challenge of a major marathon.”

Woods has said innumerable times he wouldn’t enter a golf tournament unless he felt he could win. So does he think he can win the Masters? ”

The answer is immediate and we knew it before he said it: “I do”.

Yes, we know. So if Tiger can tee up, Tiger can win.

Bring on the Sunday red shirt for Tiger is ready once again for a Sunday Green Jacket.

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