Masters crowds ready to roar for Tiger Woods in twilight rounds

Tiger Woods on the 8th during a practice round ahead of the Masters at Augusta National.

Tiger Woods on the 8th during a practice round ahead of the Masters at Augusta National. Photo: Brian Snyder/Reuters

Published Apr 5, 2023

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Augusta — Expect huge crowds of spectators and dramatic roars from their cheers on Thursday as Tiger Woods begins what could be among his final rounds at the Masters.

The 15-time major champion and five-time Masters champion will draw huge galleries at Augusta National, especially after saying on Tuesday that he wasn't sure how much longer he will able to compete after severe leg injuries in a 2021 car crash.

"I don't know how many more I have in me," Woods said, admitting it crosses his mind sometimes that he might not play in many more Masters.

"So much of my life has been here at Augusta National. Just so excited to be back here again and compete."

Woods, still struggling to walk 18 holes, tees off at 4.18pm on Thursday alongside US compatriot Xander Schauffele, the reigning Olympic champion, and Norway's Viktor Hovland.

World number seven Schauffele knows the crowds that follow Woods can make it tough on his playing partners, especially with them almost willing their hero along every painful stride of Augusta National.

"It can definitely be distracting with a lot of people moving around," Schauffele said. "If he taps in before you and if you have a six-footer for par, there's going to be some movement and people shuffling around to get in position to watch his next tee shot."

Woods, 47, made his comeback from the crash at last year's Masters, sharing 47th and achieving a measure of success simply by walking 72 hills over the undulating layout.

"For me to be able to come back and play was a small victory in itself," Woods said.

Woods shared 45th in a PGA Tour event at Riviera and his shotmaking looked strong in practice rounds, but the test of walking the course remains.

"He's ready to go," Woods practice partner Fred Couples said. "It's probably not going to be easy. But I think he'll be fine."

Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy agrees, the world number two having joined Woods on the course on Monday.

"He looks good," McIlroy said. "If he didn't have to walk up these hills and all of that, I'd say he'd be one of the favourites. He's got all of the shots. It's just that physical limitation of walking 72 holes, especially on a golf course as hilly as this.

"But again, as we all know, we never count Tiger out, and he can do incredible things. He's got all the aspects of the game you need to succeed around this place."

Schauffele could see the love for Woods from Masters fans before he even reached Augusta National.

"I've never seen Washington (Road) so packed on a Monday because Tiger was out here," Schauffele said. "It's insane. It was absolutely a parking lot. That's because of him.

"It's always a reminder of what he can do for our game and it's a beautiful thing."

Woods counts on his knowledge and experience at Augusta National to help see him into contention, but he also finds new joy from his limited number of competitive opportunities.

"It's harder now. I don't play as many tournaments and I don't practice as much as I used to. I'm limited in what I can do," Woods said.

"But to be able to still share this game and pass on some of the things I've learned ... has been fantastic."

AFP

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