Tiger Woods says he will contest the Open Championship at St Andrews this summer, although he could not commit to competing any time sooner immediately following his final round at the Masters.
The 15-time major champion, 46, carded a final-round 78 at Augusta National on Sunday to finish 13 over par and in 47th place. World No 1 Scottie Scheffler won the Green Jacket, on 10-under.
However, for many, just the sight of Woods back playing competitive golf for the first time since a life-threatening car crash in February last year – his most recent PGA Tour appearance had been the previous November – was enough to celebrate, even if the five-time Masters champion clearly struggled to walk around the course following major surgery to his right leg severely injured in the accident.
Speaking to Sky Sports in the immediate aftermath of his return, Woods said he could not commit to playing next month’s US PGA Championship at Southern Hills, but that he would be at the Old Course in three months' time. The July 14-17 event marks the Open’s 150th anniversary; Woods won the Claret Jug there in 2000 and 2005.
“I won’t be playing a full schedule ever again, it’ll be just the big events,” Woods said. “I am looking forward to St Andrews. That is something that is near and dear to my heart. I’ve won two Opens there, it’s the home of golf, it’s my favourite golf course in the world. I will be there for that one.”
As for his expected recovery from the week’s exertions at Augusta National – following the single-vehicle crash in Los Angeles, there were fears Woods’ right leg needed amputated – the American said: “I don’t quite have the endurance that I would like to have had, but as of a few weeks ago, didn’t even know if I was going to play in this event.
“Now we’re excited about the prospects of the future, about training, about getting into that gym and doing some other stuff to get my leg stronger, which we haven’t been able to do because it needed more time to heal.
“I think it needs a couple more days to heal after this, but we’ll get back after it, and we’ll get into it. I’ve got some work to do and I’m looking forward to doing it.”
Woods, who opened with a 1-under par 71 on Thursday before carding rounds of 74, 78 and 78, said, given the circumstances, the week had represented one of the greatest achievements of his career.
“For not winning an event, yes. Yes, without a doubt,” he said. “To go from where I was to get to this point, I’ve had an incredible team that has helped me get to this point and incredible support.
“As I alluded to in the press conference on Tuesday, the amount of texts and FaceTimes and calls I got from players that are close to me throughout this entire time has meant a lot.”
Much of the past 14 months has been dominated by doubts regarding Woods’ ability to ever play again. On Sunday, he told CBS: “I had the same questions.
“It was an unbelievable feeling to have the patrons and their support out there. I was not exactly playing my best out there and to have the support, I don’t think words can really describe that given where I was and what my prospects were at that time.
“To end up here and play all four rounds, even a month ago I didn’t know if I could pull this off."
Woods added: “I don’t think people really understand. The people who are close to me understand. They’ve seen it. Some of the players who are close to me have seen it and have seen some of the pictures and the things that I have had to endure.
“They appreciate it probably more than anyone else because they know what it takes to do this out here at this level."