Masters is all about Tiger Woods, even if there are so many subplots

Augusta, Ga. – The gates to Augusta National opened just after 7am on Monday. It felt like Masters week wasn’t going to start until a little before 3 p.m

Tiger Woods was at the first tee and this was no time to shop for shirts and hats or wait in line for pimento cheese sandwiches. That featured the largest golfing crowd this year on any hole, excluding the circus par 3, 16th at the Phoenix Open.

Woods draws attention to himself with every Masters he plays. This has been the case since he won the first of his five green jackets 25 years ago.

Now, in these unusual circumstances, it’s even bigger.

He hasn’t played against the best in 17 months, not since the 2020 Masters in November while recovering from a car accident that once looked like it would end his career. And whether he plays this is still open.

Woods has said it would be a “game time” decision whether his ailing right leg and ankle can handle the walking and competing 18 holes at Augusta National.


“There’s always something going on here,” said Billy Horschel. “But there’s just another level of excitement to see him and see him play. I’ve thought about it in the past and maybe I’ll be on the first tee and I’ll watch him tee off, if my tee shot works and everything just because it’s a special moment.”

It’s not like this Masters is without drama.

Rory McIlroy gets another crack at the career grand slam. He spent Monday in an Irish fourball alongside Shane Lowry, Padraig Harrington and Seamus Power. They have eight majors under them; Power makes his Masters debut.

Bryson DeChambeau is back, though he says his doctors don’t recommend it.

DeChambeau said he first injured his left hip two years ago doing speed training – swinging as fast as his body would allow – and slipping on concrete.

He then didn’t work on finger strength, which resulted in a popping noise in his wrist before his televised match against Brooks Koepka in Las Vegas last November. This resulted in a hairline fracture of the hamate of his left hand. And then, while playing table tennis in Saudi Arabia in early February, he slipped on marble, went horizontal and landed on his hand and hip.


He explained himself 80%, although he liked the way he felt about the Masters. DeChambeau hasn’t made a 36-hole cut since The Northern Trust in late August — then again, he’s only played eight times since, six of those tournaments without a cut.

“The last few weeks have been very, very difficult for me, I haven’t played well and haven’t hit anywhere near where I know I should,” he said. “Screaming ‘Fore!’ off the tee just isn’t fun every time. It is also very difficult for your mental psyche.”

Playing the Masters was a “big risk” a few weeks ago and a decision his doctors didn’t recommend him. He was day by day until he felt comfortable trying it.

“Obviously a different situation than Tiger, but it was definitely a daily process to find out if I could do it,” he said.

That much goes back to Woods, who fractured bones in his right leg and ankle in the February 2021 car accident outside of Los Angeles that left him unable to move for three months and didn’t swing a racquet until last November.


Brooks Koepka knows a thing or two about playing with injuries, even if not that many people have been paying attention.

Koepka had surgery on his right knee three weeks before the Masters last year and was still determined to play. It was so bad he couldn’t bend down to read putts. Koepka is finally back to full strength, although he still hasn’t won since the Phoenix Open more than a year ago.

He’s more concerned with his own game than what Woods has in front of him, although Koepka has a better understanding of the path Woods faces than most players.

“Look, I’m glad he’s getting healthier and able to play golf,” Koepka said. “We need him, the game needs him, everyone needs him, the fans need him, all that stuff. But at the end of the day, everyone’s just out here competing. I’m worried about myself and I’m sure everyone else is worried about themselves.”

Koepka said he needs cortisone shots just to play. Throw in the hours to prepare before the round and recover after the round and that made for some long days.


“I understand what he’s dealing with. It will be difficult. But if anyone can, it’s him,” said Koepka. “I don’t know everything he’s going through. His was way worse than mine so I’m not trying to compare. All I know is that it’s difficult to walk in this place if you don’t have the same body parts that you’re used to.”


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Dais Johnston

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