Tiger Woods appears set to make a remarkable competitive comeback at this week’s Masters Tournament – 25 years after his first Major Championship triumph at Augusta National Golf Club.
Woods, 46, has not played in a PGA TOUR event since the 2020 Masters, which was rescheduled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, when he was the defending champion after he recovered from several back surgeries to win his 15th Major a year earlier.
The long-time former World Number One, who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame last month, sustained multiple leg injuries in a car accident in Los Angeles last February.
In December, he played alongside his son, Charlie, at the PNC Championship, but as recently as February he admitted he was uncertain when he would return to elite-level golf.
In his duties as tournament host for the Genesis Invitational on the PGA TOUR, he said: “It takes time. What's frustrating is it's not at my timetable.
“I want to be at a certain place, but I'm not. I've just got to continue working. I'm getting better, yes, but as I said, not at the speed and rate that I would like. You add in the age factor, too. You just don't quite heal as fast, which is frustrating.”
But now, Woods’ continued presence in the 91-strong player field at the 86th Masters only shines a greater spotlight on the 25th anniversary of his 12-shot victory in 1997, which remains the largest winning margin in the tournament’s history.
As the then US Amateur champion, Woods, who had already won three times on the PGA TOUR, was paired with defending Masters Champion Sir Nick Faldo for the first two rounds.
Both Woods and Faldo took 40 shots to cover the front nine. What followed from the rising American star was an assured performance that belied his inexperience and led him to become the first black player and youngest, aged 21, to win at Augusta.
He made four back-nine birdies along with an eagle to come home in 29 shots and finish the first round with a two-under-par 70, three strokes off the lead.
A second-round 66, which featured five birdies and an eagle, propelled Woods into a three-shot lead over his nearest challenger Colin Montgomerie at the halfway stage in what was his first Major as a professional.
Woods continued to be a relentless front-runner as he increased his lead to nine shots with a seven-birdie blemish-free 65 on Saturday while Montgomerie fell out of contention with a third-round 74.
A closing three-under 69 saw Woods finish the week at 18 under par – a four-day score that remained a tournament record until 2020 when it was beaten by Dustin Johnson – as he sealed the first of five Green Jackets to date.
“I’ve never played an entire tournament with my A-game,” Woods said in his interview in the Butler Cabin after he shared an emotional embrace with his now late father Earl behind the 18th green.
“It was an amazing week for me.”