AUGUSTA, Ga. — As Tiger Woods prepares for his 25th Masters appearance, the five-time champion said Tuesday that the thought of one day playing his last competitive round at Augusta National has crossed his mind.
“I don’t know how many more I have in me,” Woods said. “I know more guys on the Champions Tour than I do the regular tour.”
There wasn’t any resignation in the way Woods said it. It was more of an unintentional explanation for the message he has been repeating over the past year since he battled to make the cut in his 2022 return to the Masters after a car crash that nearly took his leg: His body is no longer the same, but his game remains. And so does his stubbornness to practice, compete and ultimately win.
“The overall desire to win has always been there,” Woods said. “And I’ve always worked at it and believed in what I could do.”
What he can do now is limited. Woods, 47, said Tuesday that his game feels better than it did last year but that his body aches more because he has pushed it more, both at the Genesis Invitational in February and getting ready for the first major of the year by practicing at home.
“I’ve been able to re-create a lot of the chip shots at home in my backyard, or I’m at Medalist hitting balls off the side of lies,” Woods said “I’m trying to simulate shots and rehearsing again and again each and every flag location, each and every shot I would possibly hit.”
If there’s any place where Woods can compete, especially win, it’s Augusta, which has become like a second home for his golf game as well as a repository for his best moments and favorite memories. And even though his mobility is not where he wants, he has accepted the reality of his circumstances and has instead, as he put it Tuesday, chosen to be grateful for still having his leg.
“I’m very lucky to have this leg; it’s mine,” Woods said. “Yes, it has been altered and there’s some hardware in there, but it’s still mine. It has been tough and will always be tough. The ability and endurance of what my leg will do going forward will never be the same. I understand that. That’s why I can’t prepare and play as many tournaments as I like, but that’s my future, and that’s OK. I’m OK with that.”
Woods understands that his place in the game now, at this age, is bigger than just winning tournaments. His news conferences, few and far between, double as state of the game addresses. It’s why he was asked about the proposed no-cut format the PGA Tour might adopt in next year’s revamped, designated events schedule.
“I certainly am pushing for my event to have a cut,” Woods said. “I still think that there needs to be a penalty for not playing well. Every event shouldn’t be always guaranteed 72 holes. I think that there should be a cut there. But we are trying to figure that out.”
And It’s why he was also asked about the USGA’s proposed bifurcation of the ball in 2026. He noted with a laugh that he might be gone by the time the new MLR (model local rule) ball is instituted.
“I think this should have happened a long time ago,” Woods said, noting how players will continue to get longer and make more golf courses obsolete. Among his peers, Woods’ opinion is not in the majority.
“Not every golf course can be like Augusta National and move property and moving holes back,” Woods said. “There’s only so many golf courses you can do that on, and we still want to be able to play the old traditional great golf courses.”
For Woods, as it does for many of the best golfers in the world, Augusta falls into that category. And even though he has won here five times, even though his physical status is what it is, a win always feels within reach.
“I’ve gone through so many different scenarios in my head. You know I don’t sleep very well, so going through it and rummaging through the databank and how to hit shots from each and every place and rehearsing it,” Woods said. “That’s the only way that I can compete here. I don’t have the physical tournaments under my belt. I haven’t played that much, no. But if there’s any one golf course that I can come back, like I did last year, it’s here.”