AUGUSTA, Ga. The doors to Augusta National opened shortly after 7 a.m. Monday morning. But in fact, it was shortly before 3 p.m. that we felt that the week of the Masters Tournament had officially begun.
Tiger Woods was on the first mound, and now was not the time to shop for jerseys and caps or line up for a hot cheese sandwich. It was evident when glancing at the biggest crowd at a hole this year, except for what can be seen around the 16th hole at the Phoenix Open.
Woods attracts attention at every Masters Tournament he attends. It’s been that way since he won his first of five Green Jackets 25 years ago. This attention is even greater now, in these unusual circumstances.
He hasn’t played the best golfers in 17 months, not since the 2020 edition of the Masters in November, while he was recovering from an automobile accident that suggested, at one point, that he could end his career. And it remains to be seen whether he will participate in the 2022 edition.
Woods said he will decide just before the start of the opening round on Thursday whether his damaged right leg and right ankle can withstand hiking and competing for 18 holes at Augusta National.
“There are always whispers around this place,” Billy Horschel recalled. “But it goes to a whole new level when you catch a glimpse of him and see him play. I’ve thought about it in the past, and I could be on the first tee and watch him tee off if my tee time allows, just because it’s a special time. »
It’s not that there’s a lack of drama at this Masters Tournament.
Rory McIlroy will get another chance to complete the Career Grand Slam. Bryson DeChambeau is back, even if, he admits, his doctors do not recommend it.
But it’s all so much about Woods, who suffered bone fractures in his right leg and right ankle following his car accident in suburban Los Angeles in February 2021. He was left immobilized for three months and didn’t take a single golf swing until last November.
Brooks Koepka knows what it’s like to play with an injury, even if fewer people were paying attention.
Koepka had surgery on his right knee three weeks before the Masters last year and he was determined to make it. It was so difficult that he couldn’t squat down to read the greens.
Koepka is back to 100 percent despite not having won a tournament since the Phoenix Open more than a year ago.
Koepka may understand better than most other players what Woods is about to face, but his attention is on his game.
“Look, I’m glad his health is improving and he’s able to play golf. We need him, golf needs him, everyone needs him, the fans need him, and everything in between. But at the end of the day, everyone is here and competing. I care about me and I’m sure everyone else cares about them. »
“I understand what he has to face. It will be difficult. But if anyone can do it, it’s him,” added Koepka, who needed cortisone injections just to play.
“I don’t know how much he has to go through. (His injury) was much worse than mine, so I’m not trying to make comparisons. But I know it’s hard to walk here when you don’t have the same body parts you’re used to. »