Tiger Woods returned to professional golf on Thursday morning when he hit his first shot at The Masters.
Woods, 46, suffered a serious injury to his right leg in a California car accident in February 2021. Some reports said doctors thought of cutting off, or amputating, his leg instead of repairing it.
Just 14 months later, Woods is back on the famous Augusta National course in the U.S. state of Georgia.
Woods has been playing on the course since 1995 and won the Masters tournament five times, most recently in 2019. Last year’s winner was Hideki Matsuyama of Japan.
Thousands of people watched Woods hit his first shot. A big moment came on the sixth hole, when Woods made birdie, which means he finished with one shot fewer than required.
Many observers who saw Woods recently said he was playing well. They had one question: Can his leg handle 8 kilometers of walking each day during The Masters? That equals about 11,000 steps up and down the hilly course. Also, golfers must hit shots from ground that is not flat, or out of sand or pine needles.
On Tuesday, Woods said: “Walking is the hard part.”
Curtis Strange is a former golf champion. He said he always felt pain in his lower legs after playing Augusta National, and he did not have metal plates and rods in his leg like Woods.
Woods said playing 72 holes is “a tough challenge” that he was ready to face. Golfers play 18 holes a day over four days at The Masters. Woods has yet to play the course for more than one day since the accident and it could be physically stressful for his leg.
Healthy, young players say the tournament comes with additional stress. Scottie Scheffler is the top golfer in the world this year. He was a few months old when Woods won his first Masters 25 years ago.
Scheffler said, “I think most of the stress that we have is probably more mental than physical.” Woods, however, said he is more concerned about how his body will feel than his mind.
For his body to feel better, Woods is making one important change: his shoes. Woods is paid to wear golf shoes by Nike. But this year he is wearing more comfortable shoes from a different maker.
Woods said he thinks can play well enough to win. Otherwise, he said, he would not play.
“I feel like I can still do it,” he said. “I’ve been in worse situations and played and won tournaments,” said Woods, remembering the U.S. Open he won in 2008 with a serious knee injury. But he was only 32 then.
He then compared walking the course, with its hills, to a difficult marathon.
I’m Dan Friedell
Dan Friedell adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on a report by the Associated Press.
Words in This Story
round –n. a completion of 18 golf holes
sand – n. tiny, loose pieces of rock that cover beaches and deserts, also used as a surface in golf
pine needles – n. thin, sharp leaves that grow on pine or evergreen trees
plate – n. a flat piece of metal used to repair broken bones
rod – n. a long, round piece of metal that can be attached to help a broken bone heal
challenge – n. a difficult task
stressful – adj. a way of describing an anxious or worrisome situation
marathon – n. a long run of about 42 kilometers, a hard task that lasts a long time