Against all odds, Tiger Woods teed off in the Masters on Thursday for his first truly competitive tournament since a car wreck that damaged his right leg so badly he was faced with the prospect of amputation.
Wearing a pink shirt and black pants, Woods was greeted by thunderous applause when his name was announced to a huge gallery surrounding the first tee.
Woods failed to make solid contact with his first shot: a 264-yard drive that faded behind a bunker on the right side of the fairway. His approach rolled off the front of the green, but he sank a 10-foot putt to save par, bringing another huge roar from the patrons.
Woods walked slowly and with the slight hint of a limp, knowing that he faced four tough days on an extremely hilly course if he manages to make the cut.
Simply playing was a victory for Woods.
His career was in jeopardy after a devastating, single-car crash in Los Angeles in February 2021. He was confined to a hospital bed for three months and out of the public eye until last November, when he posted a video of him swinging a club with a simple message, “Making progress.”
His lone tournament in the 508 days since he last competed was a just-for-fun event in December in which he rode in a cart and was paired with his 13-year-old son, Charlie.
Despite the long layoff and the obvious physical limitations with screws and rods still holding the bones in place in his right leg, Woods said he still thinks he can win his sixth green jacket.
At 46, he would be the oldest Masters champion by three weeks over Jack Nicklaus.
The biggest question is how Woods holds up over 18 holes for four straight days. He walked 18 holes last week — his first big test — during a scouting trip with his son.
He teed off at 11:04 a.m. Thursday — 30 minutes behind schedule because of lingering showers — with Louis Oosthuizen and Joaquin Niemann.
“I can hit it just fine. I don’t have any qualms about what I can do physically from a golf standpoint,” Woods said Tuesday. “Walking is the hard part. This is normally not an easy walk, to begin with. Now given the conditions that my leg is in, it gets even more difficult.
“Seventy-two holes is a long road and it’s going to be a tough challenge,” he added. “And a challenge that I’m up for.”
Tiger’s back: Woods tees off at Masters after terrible wreck