As the world eagerly awaits Tiger Woods’ report on whether he will play in the Masters next week – an announcement could come on Friday – Rory McIlroy added more fuel to the notion on Wednesday that Woods could make his return to golf during the first major of the year.
In an interview with Golf Channel ahead of this week’s Valero Texas Open, the Northern Irishman said the 15-time major champion looked “amazing” when he saw him at Augusta National the day before. Both were at the club for practice rounds, with Woods reportedly being joined by his son Charlie and Justin Thomas.
“It’s unbelievable,” McIlroy, who lives about 20 minutes from Woods in South Florida, told the network. “I spent some time with him at his house a few weeks ago and at the time it didn’t seem possible. He has certainly made great strides in recent weeks.”
McIlroy warned that the five-time Masters winner is “conservative” in his approach, but also “does everything he can to play” in the tournament.
“If he does play,” McIlroy said, “that would be a monumental achievement from where he was last year.”
Speculation about Woods’ return began to seep into this weekend when a video surfaced of him practicing at his home course, Medalist, where he was also joined by his caddy Joe LaCava. On Tuesday, Woods’ jet was picked up by multiple locations tracking planes as it flew from South Florida to Augusta, Georgia.
Although Woods’ agent did not respond to a text from The Post on Tuesday asking for comment, a source who knows Woods well told The Post that he believes Woods will indeed play. A player who didn’t want to be identified also thinks Woods will likely try.
No one could say for sure, though, and Woods himself might not even know yet. Much will likely depend on how the 46-year-old’s body feels in the days after he traverses the infamously hilly Augusta National and whether he thinks it will be able to hold up for a full week of championship golf.
Woods has not played in a PGA Tour event since sustaining several serious injuries in a high-speed one-car accident outside Los Angeles in February 2021. The crash resulted in multiple surgeries on his right leg, including his lower leg and ankle.
Last December, Woods did play the 36-hole PNC Championship, an unofficial tournament, with his son Charlie, but he used a cart to get around Orlando’s lane. In February, Woods also said he’d made significant progress since then, but was left with no strings attached when he went on tour again, saying only that he’d be playing on a limited schedule going forward.
If he is able to do the trick, Woods would certainly be welcomed with open arms, by fans and his fellow competitors.
“I think for golf and for the Masters tournament and for everyone, Tiger would be phenomenal,” McIlory said at his press conference in San Antonio. “I think it just adds to the event. It is clear that it is. Everything Tiger Woods does in the game of golf is enhanced when he is there. I mean, it would be great if he was there. You know he was there [Tuesday] clear and he tries to see what he can do. Obviously no one knows except him if he can make it.”
Even the idea that Woods could play as early as next week, given the extent of his injuries, is remarkable.
“I’ve said this so many times but from March 2017 fast forward two years and he’s winning the Masters and where he was with his body and what he needed to do to get back to some sort of health. And it’s not even being a little healthy, it’s also what he has to do before the round and after the round to get ready to play golf,” said McIlroy. “Yes, the sheer will and perseverance, yes, it’s incredible. If he comes back from this again, it’s just, he likes to prove people wrong.
“Regardless of when he comes back, whether it’s next week or a few weeks, a few months later, he’s a great addition to the game and the game of golf is better when he plays and when he plays well.”
Unlike a PGA Tour event, there is no deadline to commit for the Masters. That means Woods can wait until next week to announce whether he will play, although in similar situations in the past he announced his intentions on the Friday before Masters week.