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Players react to Tiger Woods’ Masters return and quest for a 6th green jacket

Breven Honda

Over the last quarter-century, Tiger Woods has given golf fans some of the sport’s best moments at Augusta National Golf Course for the Masters’ Tournament.

From his chip-in on the par-3 16th in 2005 to his comeback victory three years ago, or his red polo shirt on Masters Sundays, Tiger Woods has made unthinkable things become reality.

Since his inaugural Masters Tournament in 1995, Woods has totaled five green jackets, including in his first walk around the property as a professional in 1997. He also became the first golfer since Nick Faldo to win back-to-back Masters Tournaments when he won at Augusta in 2001 and 2002.

Tiger Woods and the road to the 2022 Masters Tournament

tiger woods masters
Credit: USA Today Network

However, even despite coming back from multiple injuries before the 2019 Masters Tournament, this time around, it is a bit tougher.

In the second month of 2021, Woods injured his leg in a car crash and was not sure if he would be able to play golf. However, with the right rehab schedule and testing out his leg at the 2021 PNC Championship with his 12-year-old son Charlie, Woods entered this week with the possibility of playing in his 24th Masters.

Also read: 10 players who can win the 2022 Masters

After multiple rounds and preparing to play 72 holes, Woods has put the question to bed and focused on how his body feels after a 9- or 18-hole practice session.

“As of right now I feel like I am going to play,” Woods told the media Tuesday morning. “I am going to play nine more holes [Wednesday]. I’ve been very excited how I’ve recovered each and every day and that’s been the challenge. That’s why I came out here and tested it out.”

On Thursday for the first round, Tiger Woods is slated to tee off at 10:34 AM EST with 2010 Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen and 23-year-old Joaquin Neimann, who won this year’s Genesis Invitational, which was hosted by Woods.

The field responds to Woods’ return

With the announcement of Woods vying for his sixth green jacket, which would tie Jack Nicklaus for most victories at the Masters, the field has been reacting to Woods’ return to Augusta National.

One of Woods’ best friends, Justin Thomas — both played together during the 2019 Presidents Cup — was playing a practice round Monday along with 1992 Masters Champion Fred Couples.

With the number of people in attendance as Woods, Thomas and Couples were playing the course, it felt as if it was a Sunday and those three were in the final group.

Thomas said their practice round was something he has not experienced before as playing in front of crowds can benefit Woods in the coming days.

“I figured they were there for Fred,” Thomas said jokingly on Tuesday. “It was unbelievable. I honestly didn’t think much of it until a couple buddies sent me some pictures [Monday] night. It was probably more people that’s ever watched me play a round at Augusta National and they weren’t watching me. So, it was really cool.

“Something like that is going to help him get through the week and being able to feed off that energy, use the adrenaline. It’s definitely going to be helpful,” he added.

A Woods win at the 2022 Masters Tournament has historic implications

tiger woods masters
Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-Augusta Chronicle/USA TODAY Network

In addition to competing for his sixth green jacket, Woods could also become the winningest player on the PGA Tour, surpassing Sam Snead. Both have 82 PGA Tour wins. With a win, Woods can also get to within two of Nicklaus’ 18 major victories.

Rory McIlroy, who is going after his fifth major and the career grand slam this week, said Woods has grown and benefitted the game in this era like no other.

“Tiger Woods has been wonderful for us all in this room,” McIlroy told the media Monday. “He creates attention on the game of golf that no one else can. That’s great for his peers, it’s great for the media, it’s great for this golf club, and it’s great for everyone. So, anytime Tiger Woods is involved, it’s a wonderful thing.”

Woods fans turned contemporaries, and now back to fans at Masters

tiger woods masters
Credit: Davis Tucker Andrew Davis Tucker-USA TODAY Sports

Despite missing the Masters in 2014, 2017, and 2021 due to injury, Woods is looking to make his 22nd consecutive cut and hoist the clubhouse replica trophy.

McIlroy said one of the challenges on this course, including for Woods, is the undulation the course brings, especially with all of ascending hills around the property, on top of the popularity he brings to Augusta.

“You’re trying to focus on yourself, and he can’t stop you from hitting a 67,” McIlroy said. “It’s not like any sport, so I don’t think that changes much. The golf is there. He’s hitting it well, he’s chipping it well, he’s sharp. It’s just the physical demand of getting around 72 holes this week. That’s probably the question mark, but the golf game is there. So, would I be surprised? No, I’m not surprised at anything he does anymore.”  

Over the last 25 years since Woods won his first Masters, a lot has changed and a lot of players on Tour have idolized Woods while they were growing up.

Also read: Golfers with the most majors & where Tiger ranks

One of those players is Collin Morikawa, who has won two majors in his short career, The 2020 PGA Championship, and the 2021 Open Championship. As a result, the UC Berkely alum watched the first time Woods won at Augusta 25 years ago, in addition to his most recent Masters victory with his Golden Bear golf teammates.

“Probably rewatching Tiger’s ’97 win. For me, that’s my first actual memory,” Morikawa said Monday. “Going back the most memorable, everything I remember, where I was, everything, was probably 2019 when Tiger won. I was in college. We were sitting all together, watching it. That Sunday was booked out to do nothing other than watch TV.

“That’s like really special. Normally, I watch it with my parents. We’ll just be home on a Sunday. You’ll watch the late half of the back nine, even a little part of the beginning, but you have it on. I’m not zoned on focusing on every shot, but in 2019, we were glued to the TV,” he added.

As Thursday’s first-round inches closer and closer, the characteristics Woods brings to Augusta will be on full display as full crowds return and loud Tiger roars from the gallery are expected.