Thousands watch Tiger Woods practice round as golf world awaits Masters decision

Playing partner Fred Couples convinced Woods will play at Augusta and expects him to 'contend'

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Thousands of fans turned out to watch Tiger Woods play a practice round at Augusta National on Monday as the golf world awaits the American's final decision regarding his participation at The Masters.

Every shot by Woods was closely watched by hordes of spectators, who lined the famous course to catch a glimpse of the 15-time major winner who has kept fans in suspense, saying on Sunday his Masters participation will be a "game-time decision."

While Woods gave nothing away on Monday, fans will not have to wait much longer to know his decision, with a news conference scheduled on Tuesday along with the publishing of Thursday's first round tee times.

After two years of Covid-19 restrictions that limited the number of spectators allowed onto the grounds, the galleries were back and so was the unmistakable Augusta National buzz amplified by the sight of Woods working the fairways.

The car crash that 14 months ago had threatened to take Woods' right leg, left him in hospital for three weeks and confined to a hospital-type bed at home for three months seemed a distant misfortune on a picture perfect Monday.

Playing nine holes during an afternoon practice alongside Fred Couples and Justin Thomas, a relaxed Woods did not have the look of a man struggling to make a decision. Rather he had the self-assured air of someone who had made up his mind to be on the first tee come Thursday.

While Woods was tight-lipped, one of his playing partners is certain of what will happen on Thursday.

"I hope everything keeps going Tuesday and Wednesday and I'm sure he's going to tee it up Thursday," said Couples. "It's not shocking because he's the greatest player to ever play. If he can walk around here in 72 holes, he'll contend. He's too good."

Woods has always maintained that he enters every event with the mindset to win it and his fellow golfers say not even coming back from a career threatening injury has changed that approach.

"What's impressive is Tiger won't play here unless he thinks he can win," said three-time major winner Padraig Harrington. "He's not coming to wave at the crowds.

"He's coming to try and win the tournament. It looks like he'll tee it up, and if he does, he feels like he can win, and that's impressive."

If Woods, who was noticeably limping at the end of nine holes, does commit to play it would be his first official tournament since defending his title at the 2020 Masters, played in November due to Covid-19.

As delighted as Woods clearly is to be back playing, the excitement on Monday was surpassed by the fans.

On Monday they lined the entire length of the fairways and were packed 10 to 15 deep around the greens, a smiling Woods soaking up the attention as the cheers echoed through the Georgia pines.

His rivals are also not writing off Woods' participation or even him winning a sixth Green Jacket.

"I've learned long ago never doubt the guy," said Australian Adam Scott, the 2013 Masters champion. "It's exciting that there's the possibility he's going to play this week.

"I really hope he does. I think no matter what it would just be epic."

Updated: June 09, 2023, 12:21 PM