Tiger Woods hits out of a bunker on the 15th hole during a practice round for the Masters golf tournament on Wednesday, April 6, 2022, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Tiger Woods’ Return Highlights the Start of The Masters Thursday

The 86th annual Masters tournament is set to begin Thursday. Defending champion Hideki Matsuyama, the first Japanese player to win the event, returns to Augusta National in hopes of a rare repeat. Additionally, Tiger Woods announced Tuesday that he plans to compete in the tournament. Woods has been sidelined from golf since Feb. 2021 after fracturing his right tibia and fibula in a car crash. There were questions whether Woods would ever compete on the golf course again. However, he’ll attempt to make one of the greatest comebacks of all time when he tees of at 10:34 a.m. Thursday.

Woods talked about his recovery process in a press conference Tuesday.

Does Woods Have a Serious Chance?

The short answer: yes. Most counted him out and thought his career was over after back injuries plagued his career starting in 2013. But after multiple back surgeries, he returned and eventually won the 2018 PGA Tour Championship and then shocked everyone by winning the 2019 Masters. The experience showed in 2019. He stayed calm throughout the final round and when it came down to the final holes, Woods hit remarkable shots to seal his fifth green jacket.

Now, coming off the leg injury, Woods is confident with his recovery process. However, Augusta National is one of the hardest courses to walk. The constant hills and possible sharp angle shots will definitely test Woods’ knee and it will be interesting to see how it holds up in his first competitive tournament since Nov. 2020. Woods said the easy part is hitting the shots, but it will be difficult to walk the course.

Who Else to Watch For

Obviously, Tiger has highlighted most of the Masters coverage this week, but there are several golfers looking to win their first green jacket or repeat as champion.

Back in January, Matsuyama continued his dominance in the golf world, winning the Sony Open. Though, he has struggled with injuries so far this year, having to withdraw from the Players Championship. There’s no question Matsuyama can repeat. His slow and fundamental swing allows for his elite ball-striking ability, and he is a consistent short game player. He tore up the Masters last year and many eyes will be on his repeat possibility.

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Scottie Scheffler is the No. 1 player in the world. He has dominated the field, winning three tour events so far this season, and the Texan could be the most consistent player on the course. He’s an impressive shot shaper, and he’s usually competing at the top of the leaderboard come the weekend. However, The Masters is considered one of the hardest tournaments of the year, so we’ll see how consistent he can be.

Finally, Xander Schauffele had rolled in four straight birdies heading to the 16th tee in last year’s Masters. He was two strokes behind Matsuyama at the time, with a chance to cut into his lead. But his tee shot rolled into the water, and he triple-bogeyed the hole ending his chances at his first green jacket. Schauffele hasn’t been great at majors in his career, but his performance last year at Augusta was promising. Hopefully, he’ll take last year’s disappointment as a learning experience and work his way to earning his first major championship of his career.

Gators at Augusta

Billy Horschel is the only Gators alum to compete in the event this year. Horschel, a volunteer head coach for the Gators Men’s Golf Team, played for four years in Gainesville and was a three time first-team All-American. Horschel has yet to win a major in his career.

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