On the eve of last year’s Masters Tournament, Tiger Woods was asked a very simple question: Do you believe you can win?
Hobbling his way around the clubhouse, it was a miracle Woods was there at all after his horror SUV crash of the previous year. Golf was an added bonus. Winning the Masters nothing but an elusive dream.
“I do,” Woods replied, never one to show up to a tournament with anything other than unflinching self-belief.
“I can hit it just fine. I don’t have any qualms about what I can do physically from a golf standpoint. It’s now walking that’s the hard part.”
And so it proved.
The fact Woods made the cut when the likes of Xander Schauffele, Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth didn’t – highlighted by a one-under par opening 71 tallied under excruciating pain – was the stuff of legend. That his charge ran out of steam over the weekend was to be expected after four arduous rounds up and down Augusta National’s undulating terrain.
But winning that week was all relative to Woods. Just making the cut, while not a victory he’s used to, was up there with his crowning achievements.
“For not winning an event, yes. Yes, without a doubt,” he said.
“I don’t think people really understand. The people who are close to me understand. They’ve seen it. Some of the players who are close to me have seen it and have seen some of the pictures and the things that I have had to endure. They appreciate it probably more than anyone else because they know what it takes to do this out here at this level.
“It’s one thing to play with my son at a hit-and-giggle, but it’s another thing to play in a major championship.”
The question now, a year on, is whether Woods can conjure more Masters magic and tune up a Sunday soundtrack of roars ripping through the Georgia pines that only his famous red can awake.
Upon his competitive return at the Genesis in February, you got the feeling watching Woods that this return was more sustainable. He looked stronger, looser, overall more comfortable in a tie for 45th at a Riviera course that is no walk in the park.
“It was progress,” Woods agreed.
“The leg is better than it was last year, but it’s my ankle. So being able to have it recover from day to day and meanwhile still stress it but have the recovery and also have the strength development at the same time, it’s been an intricate little balance that we’ve had to dance.
“But it’s gotten so much better the last couple months. I’m excited to go out there and compete and play with these guys. And I would not have put myself out here if I didn’t think I could beat these guys.”
It might sound unthinkable but should Woods’ name be anywhere near the top of the pile come Sunday, his aura, a presence amongst the pines that no one else possesses, may prove impossible to escape.
Leave a comment