March 30, 2018

Woods Excited With The Masters Only One Week Away

Augusta, GA. – When Tiger Woods arrived at Augusta National last year for the annual Champions Dinner on Tuesday night, he couldn’t swing a club.

“I was debilitated,” he said this week.

As much as Woods enjoyed the camaraderie and stories, he was uncomfortable. Partly due to back and leg pain, but also because for the second consecutive year, he was a non-participant.

“It’s been tough just going to the dinner,” said Woods. “I’m not retired. Watching the guys and hearing their excitement about playing was difficult. It was also sad not having Arnold there. It left a big void.”

A four-time winner of the coveted green jacket, Woods will attend again next week and sample defending champion Sergio Garcia’s menu. Only this year, Woods is playing.

Not only that, he’s among the favorites.

“That’s kind of funny,” Woods said. “Quite a shift. Six months ago the odds were I wasn’t even going to play.”

After undergoing spinal back fusion surgery last April, his fourth procedure since March of 2014, Woods’ competitive career was in jeopardy. Slowly, he began another arduous rehabilitation, uncertain where it would lead.

In February, the 42-year-old made his second PGA Tour start in two years at the Farmers Insurance Open and grinded to make the cut. He failed to qualify for the weekend at the Genesis Open, a tournament that benefits his TGR Foundation, but made huge strides on the Florida Swing. Woods finished 12th at the Honda Classic, tied for second at the Valspar Championship, the first time he had played the event, and tied for fifth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, contending on Sunday in the latter two.

“I’ve been better with each week I’ve competed,” said Woods. “A little more crisp. I’m starting to put the pieces together.”

The second-winningiest player in PGA Tour history with 79 victories, including 14 major championships, even Woods is surprised how fast and far he has come.

“I got a second chance on life,” he said. “I am a walking miracle.”

Words can’t express how excited he is to tee it up next week at the 82nd Masters. It’s his favorite event and he’s missed it dearly.

“I’m just really looking forward to playing,” said Woods. “It’s the best run tournament in the world. The golf course, the patrons, the entire atmosphere. It’s a golfer’s heaven.”

Last week, Woods played Augusta for the first time since the final round of 2015 Masters, when he tied for 17th. He played two practice rounds and was joined for nine holes each day by Bryson DeChambeau.

“They resurfaced a few of the greens, but they still look like they’ve been there for 100 years,” Woods said. “The course was in fantastic shape. My yardage book was basically the same.”

The weather was cold – in the 30s and 40s – and a challenge was deciding how many layers to wear. The greens and fairways weren’t up to tournament speed, but will be next week.

“It played brutally long,” he said. “The ball wasn’t flying or rolling out. It will play much, much faster in the tournament.”

The elevation changes and sidehill lies came back to him quickly.

“I’ve played basically flat courses,” said Woods. “Hitting off slopes and walking was different. The only real flat spots at Augusta are the tee boxes. You have to make constant adjustments.”

Woods is still sorting out his practice rounds and might play in the Par-3 Contest. He has tweaked the shafts in his driver and 3-wood, and will decide whether to make the switch.

While Woods has missed the last two Masters, three of the last four, his expectations haven’t changed.

“I’m just there to win,” he said.