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AUGUSTA, Ga. — A comeback unlike any other for Tiger Woods might start at the Masters.
Just over 13 months since Woods damaged his right leg so badly he said doctors considered amputation, he tweeted he was headed to Augusta National on Sunday without yet deciding whether to play.
“I will be heading up to Augusta today to continue my preparation and practice. It will be a game-time decision on whether I compete,” Woods wrote.
The Masters does not have a firm deadline to commit like regular tour events. It is an invitation tournament, and players typically notify the club only if they do not plan to play.
Tee times are published Tuesday.
If Woods decides to play — he played 18 holes at Augusta National five days ago — it would be his first competition against the world’s best players since Nov. 15, 2020, when the Masters was moved to autumn because of the pandemic.
Woods was recovering from a fifth back surgery in early 2021 when on Feb. 23, two days after he presented the trophy at the Genesis Invitational that he hosts at Riviera, he crashed his SUV over a median on a suburban coastal road in Los Angeles and the car tumbled down the side of a hill.
Police estimated he was going at least 84 mph in a 45 mph zone.
Doctors said Woods shattered tibia and fibula bones in his right leg in multiple locations. Those were stabilized by a rod in the tibia, while a combination of screws and pins were used to stabilize additional injuries in the ankle and foot.
Woods said he spent three months immobilized in a makeshift hospital bed set up in his Florida home. Only then he could start moving around on crutches, and eventually he was able to walk on his own.
Woods won the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2008 with a double stress fracture and torn knee ligaments in his left leg. He made it back from a scandal in his personal life to become No. 1 in the world again.
Nothing was more amazing than three years ago at Augusta National when he won a fifth green jacket after four back surgeries that made him fear he might never walk again.
That he is even contemplating playing in this Masters is remarkable in its own right. If he can, questions are sure to shift to whether he can win.
A week before Thanksgiving, he posted a three-second video hitting one shot with two words: Making progress. Two weeks later at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, a holiday event Woods hosts, he was on the back end of the range at Albany hitting drivers.
The first big surprise came two weeks later when he played the PNC Challenge, a 36-hole scramble on a flat Florida course. Woods was allowed to ride in a cart, a point he made when there were gushing observations about the state of his game. He and his son finished second when John Daly and his son birdied the last hole.
“It’s going to take a lot of work to get to where I feel I can complete against these guys and be at a high level,” Woods said that day.
Addressing the condition of his right leg in February, Woods said it’s “altered” and that “my right leg doesn’t look like my left, put it that way.”
The importance of the practice round last week was for Woods to make sure he could walk 18 holes on the undulating terrain of Augusta National and still be able to recover in the days that followed. That he was returning Sunday was a good sign.
Can he win again? That would be considered more improbable than his last Masters victory.
Woods has played the Masters 21 times as a pro, and it’s the only major where he has never missed the cut.
In his last competitive round at Augusta National, he made the highest score of his career — a 10 on the par-3 12th hole by hitting three balls in Rae’s Creek — only to birdie five of the last six, including the last four in a row.
Source: This post first appeared on NBC News