Tiger Woods raised hopes that he could compete at next week's Masters after the 15-time major champion played a practice round at Augusta National on Tuesday to test his fitness ahead of the tournament, according to reports.
Both ESPN and Sports Illustrated said Woods flew to and from Georgia on his private jet to see how well he could walk the hilly layout only 13 months after suffering severe leg injuries in a California automobile accident. He was joined in the practice round by son Charlie and close friend, and world No 7, Justin Thomas.
The year's first major golf event will be played April 7-10 at Augusta National, where Woods has captured five of his 15 major titles, including his most recent in 2019.
Woods suffered severe right leg injuries in a car crash in February 2021, saying later he was lucky to survive the mishap and fortunate to still have both legs. While saying he plans to return to tournament play on a limited basis, the former world No 1 has given no timetable for when he might next play competitively.
Reports of Woods's arrival sparked speculation that the 46-year-old American could make his comeback on the same Augusta National layout where he last played in a PGA event in November 2020 after Covid-19 delayed the tournament from April.
Woods won the 2019 Masters title, his first major crown in 11 years, since winning the 2008 US Open in a playoff with a broken leg. The Masters victory capped a Woods fightback from multiple back surgeries that had Woods wondering if he might ever have a pain-free life much less golf again.
Woods was hospitalised for weeks and struggling to walk for months after the 2021 crash. He has rehabilitated his legs simply to be able to walk, much less a return to playing form. But there was a sense that Woods would not have tested his ability to walk the course if he wasn't confident in his shotmaking skills around the layout.
Since the accident, Woods has played in a family event alongside Charlie and been inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
On the Masters website, Woods remains on a list of players who are qualified for next week as a past champion, rather than on a list of non-playing past champions.
Woods definitely plans to be in Augusta next week to attend the Masters Champions Dinner on April 5.