Tiger Woods was supposed to defend his Masters title in April, but the COVID-19 global pandemic turned life upside down.
The 2020 Masters is now set for Nov. 12-15, meaning Woods has waited 19 months to defend his title.
He has five green jackets and his quest for a record-tying sixth will begin on Thursday at Augusta National Golf Club.
The anticipation is somewhat tempered. Woods’ performances in 2020 leave something to be desired. The two events he’s played on the 2020-21 schedule feature a missed cut at the U.S. Open and a T-72 (out of 77 golfers) at the Zozo Championship.
But this is Tiger and Augusta we’re talking about. No one should ever count out Tiger Woods at Augusta National, according to other former Masters winners.
At the PGA Tour Champions Charles Schwab Cup Championship at Phoenix Country Club this week, the 81-man field features eight former Masters champs. Several of them made plans to travel down on the same charter Sunday night after the 54-hole event concludes. Others, like Larry Mize, who is traveling with his wife, will find other ways to get to Magnolia Lane.
But they’ll all be there. Here’s what some past Masters champs are saying about Tiger Woods.
1992 Masters champion
“I talk to him every day. We’re playing Monday. I’ve got to get there and get tested, somehow get my test back fast so I can join he and JT.”
Couples then chuckled when he said: “He’s wound up. He’s sent a couple pictures, he’s a funny guy. I think he’ll be just fine.
“He loves the place. He can play there at any given time, it just depends on really how he feels and I can relate to that, but whereas when I don’t feel well, I can still slap it around, but when you’re the greatest player to ever play, it kind of wears on you a little bit. But he’ll get used to it and if he’s feeling healthy, he’ll be one of the 10 or 15 guys to beat.”
1987 Masters champion
“Always gotta expect good from Tiger. Whatever’s been going on, he’s a great player. He loves Augusta National, it’s a great course for him, so you gotta expect him to play well.”
1985, 1993 Masters champion
“He can’t be happy with his season, I wouldn’t think, especially after winning Augusta last year. We all thought ‘Well, he’s back,’ roaring again, but it hasn’t quite been that way.
“But I don’t count him out. He loves the golf course, knows it. His short game is always phenomenal. If he’s got his long game together he could still defend his title.”
1998 Masters Champion
“Never count Tiger Woods out of anything. I know he hasn’t played the way he wants to for the last, maybe month and a half, but he’s Tiger Woods. It’s Augusta National. And he seems to play pretty good around there. He’s got a lot of experience. I wouldn’t count him out.”
2003 Masters champion
“I think he’ll put up a good defense. A guy like Tiger knows the golf course very well and he always gears up for the big tournaments and seems to – the great ones show up and I suspect he’ll find a way to get in the mix.”
José Maria Olazábal
1994, 1999 Master champion
“He feels really comfortable on that golf course. I have to say he knows the golf course really well. I don’t know really how his game is, but somehow he manages to get the best of it when he plays the Masters.
What is it about Tiger and Augusta? “The knowledge of the course, first of all. You need to have a great touch around the greens, you have to shape the ball either way. And I remember that when I played with him, I think it was 2001, 2002, I think it was on the Saturday, I mean, he proved that he had all the tools to win there. I think he feels comfortable on that golf course.”