Tiger Woods insists that he can win the Masters this week, 14 months after shattering his leg in a car crash that nearly killed him, as he ended the frenzied speculation and confirmed that he will make his comeback at Augusta.
It was unthinkable only a matter of days ago that Woods would compete in the first major of the year, having been out of action for so long with perhaps the most serious even of his long list of injuries. His right leg was nearly amputated after the crash in Los Angeles last February.
Yet he has been on site at the home of the Masters since Sunday, following a recce with his son Charlie last week, practising on the course without ever confirming his intention to play in the tournament, which starts on Thursday.
And now, at last, he confirmed the news the golfing world – and the wider world – had been waiting for.
‘It is great to be back and to be able to feel the energy and the excitement again. Hopefully we are going to have a great week,’ he said to open his press conference at Augusta today.
Quickly pressed on whether he has committed to playing, Woods added: ‘As of right now I feel like I am going to play.’
Asked if he can win, a feat which would border on the miraculous, he was defiant in response.
‘I do,’ was his straight-faced reply.
With a flash of the steely resolve that has helped win him 15 majors, Woods added: ‘I don’t show up to an event unless I can win it.’
Addressing concerns over his fitness, Woods said he had no problems swinging a golf club but that his one concern was being able to recover from walking 18 holes a day on Augusta’s famously undulating terrain.
‘I can hit it just fine. I have no qualms what I can do physically from a golf standpoint,’ he added.
‘Walking is the hard part. 72 holes is a long road. It is a tough challenge and a challenge I am up for.’
Shortly after Woods’s announcement, The Masters released the starting times and groupings for the first two rounds of the 2022 tournament.
Woods is set to tee off at 10.34am local time (15.34pm BST) in group 14 alongside Louis Oosthuizen and Joaquin Niemann.
The five-time champion is scheduled to tee off in the same grouping on Friday afternoon in group 29 at 1.41pm local time (6.41pm BST).
The ‘early-late’ tee time – playing in the morning on Thursday, followed by an afternoon tee time on the Friday – will present Woods with the best opportunity to recover between rounds.
The South African finished runner up ten years ago following a two-hole sudden death playoff that saw Bubba Watson crowned the 2012 champion.
Meanwhile, 23-year-old Niemann is making only his second Masters appearance as a professional after finishing T-40 at last year’s tournament.
Woods revealed he will head into the opening round having played nine more practice holes on Wednesday morning.
‘My recovery has been good,’ he continued. ‘I’ve been excited about how I’ve recovered each and every day.