Woods describes his love for the game, for the tournament and for Augusta National

Mark McGowan

Tiger Woods in his pre-Masters press conference (Photo: Joe Toth/Masters Media)

Mark McGowan

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Tiger Woods is playing in his 26th Masters tournament, seeking to make his 24th consecutive cut and he’s not ready to concede that a sixth Green Jacket is out of reach. And in his pre-tournament press conference, the 15-time major champion described exactly why The Masters in particular is the one event that he’s willing to stretch his body to the limit to compete in.

“Well, this tournament has meant so much to me in my life and my family,” Woods said. “I think I’ve been playing here for, what, 29 years now. It was the ultimate to be able to stay in the Crow’s Nest and to watch Byron and Sam and Gene tee off on the first hole.

“It’s been a part of my life to have won here as my first major as a pro. Hugging my dad, as you saw; then a full circle in 2019 to hug my son.

“It has meant a lot to my family. It’s meant a lot to me. I always want to keep playing in this. And today I got a chance to play with Fred [Couples]. And Fred’s been here a very long time, and we’re joking that he’s the oldest person ever to make a cut, and I think he can do it again this year.

“So it’s great. I mean, that’s the neat thing about this golf course, and it’s the only major we play on the same site, the same venue, each and every year, and we get to tell stories and catch up with friends and for me get a chance to catch up with idols and the people that I looked up to my entire life.”

Given the litany of well-documented injuries that Woods has suffered throughout his career – all of which were compounded and considerably added to by his near-fatal car crash just over three years ago – tournament preparations and recovery sessions between rounds have become extremely taxing, but the reason he continues to do it is fairly simple.

“I love golf,” he replied when that question was posed. “I do. I’ve always loved it. I played other sports growing up, but I just have always loved this sport. I love to compete.

“And be able to have the love I have for the game and the love for competition be intertwined, I think that’s one of the reasons why I’ve had a successful career. I just love doing the work. I love logging the time in, and I love preparing. I love competing, and I love that feeling when everything’s on fire with a chance to win and you either you do or you don’t.”

He’d expand on that when asked what the game of golf meant to him personally.

“Well, it’s been my life,” he said. “I started playing at nine months; so I’ve done it pretty much my entire life. I played my first tournament when I was five. I have been playing tournament golf and playing golf around the world, not just here in the United States but around the world; it’s allowed me to see places that I don’t think that I would ever have gotten a chance to see, people that I’ve got a chance to meet all around the world. The generational connectivity with the sport, right.

“So, as I said, with watching Sam [Snead] and Gene [Sarazen] and Byron [Nelson] tee off, two years later to watch them drinking my milkshakes, to play practice rounds with Fred [Couples] and Raymond [Floyd], Seve [Ballesteros] over the years, those are — and Jack [Nicklaus] and Arnold [Palmer], those are memories that I’ll have for a lifetime. And it’s all because of this sport.”

Alongside a question floated about Rory McIlroy potentially joining the Masters winners’ club – Woods said he will, that he’s too good not to – the potential Ryder Cup captaincy at Bethpage in 2025 was brought up and though Woods refused to make any suggestions one way or the other, his refusal to deny suggests that it’s more than a distinct possibility.

“Okay,” he replied coyly when first questioned about it, adding: “We’re still talking about it” with a grin when pressed further.

“It’s something that Seth [Waugh, PGA of America CEO] and I are going to sit back and talk about it after this event. I said I’m going to be busy for a couple weeks, so let me focus on getting through this week and hopefully getting another jacket, and then we can sit back and talk about it next week.”

And on that jacket; despite the lack of tournament reps, the injuries, the constant pain, he still feels that there’s a bite in the old Tiger yet.

“If everything comes together, I think I can get one more,” he responded when it was asked of him. “Do I need to describe that any more than that, or are we good?”

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