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Tiger Woods is making his long-awaited comeback at Augusta National and history suggests he might pull off a miracle and win his sixth Green Jacket just 14 months after a near-fatal car accident.
Winning another Masters would be extraordinary for a player now ranked 973 in the world who hasn’t played competitive golf since he finished T-38 at the 2020 edition 17 months ago.
But Woods is no ordinary golfer. Asked if he thinks he can win, he said: “I do. I don’t show up to an event unless I think I can win it.”
The golfing world has learnt over the years to never underestimate Woods. “I have been in worse situations and won tournaments,” he added, alluding to his 2008 US Open win despite having stress fractures in the tibia of his left leg and torn ligaments in his left knee.
He’s no stranger to a dramatic comeback either, winning the Masters in 2019, ending an 11-year wait for his 15th major after several back surgeries and high-profile personal problems.
A win this time round would top even that comeback. Following his life-threatening car crash in California in February 2021, it was feared Woods might not walk again, let alone play competitive golf. He now has rods, plates and screws in his rebuilt leg.
When Woods was lying injured in hospital after the accident, many in the sport recalled another golfing great’s miraculous comeback as reason for cautious optimism.
Ben Hogan was 36 in 1949 when his car was hit head on by a bus. He suffered a broken left ankle, several other broken bones, and serious blood clots which caused him lifelong circulation problems.
Despite constant pain and daily treatments, Hogan won his second US Open title in June 1950, just 16 months after his accident.
Woods knows his golf history and considers Hogan a personal hero, and his story could inspire him over the line come Sunday.
Age catches up with all of us, even for 46-year-old Woods. But that didn’t stop Jack Nicklaus winning the Masters against the odds in 1986, at the same age.
Woods won back-to-back Masters from 2001 and the 2005 edition, before famously winning his fifth Green Jacket in 2019. A win in 2022 would match Nicklaus’ six wins at Augusta and it would be fitting to do it at the same age.
More recently, his great rival Phil Mickelson proved age is no barrier when he won his sixth major at the 2021 PGA Championship aged 50, becoming the oldest major winner in the history of golf.
Augusta National is one of the most gruelling and hilly terrains in professional golf and as such presents a challenge for Woods.
He played in an exhibition tournament with his son Charlie in December 2021 in Florida but used a buggy to get around the course, and in February said the hilly terrain at Augusta would stop him from competing there.
Woods admitted on Tuesday: “I don’t have to worry about ball striking, it’s actually just the hills out here. I haven’t been in situations like this where I’ve had to walk and endure what I’m going to try and endure.”
But the physical challenge of Augusta could be mitigated by his knowledge and know-how around this course, unrivalled by any of the top contenders for the title.
Nicklaus said: “Tiger knows this course like the back of his hand. In 2019, once in position, he remembered how to win. If his body holds up, could he do it again?”
This year’s contest is the 25th anniversary of Woods’ maiden major success, with his 12-shot victory in 1997 remaining the largest winning margin in the history of The Masters.
It would be close to a miracle if he won again this year. But Tiger Woods is all about miracles.