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The Masters; few competitions are as synonymous with a sport as the annual pilgrimage to the nearly 100-year-old Augusta National Golf Club.
Steeped in traditions and historic moments, the Masters Tournament has come to represent the beginning of springtime in America.
Who will make history and take home the green jacket this year?
How to watch?
CBS and ESPN will provide 18 hours of traditional TV tournament coverage between Thursday and Sunday. Also Masters.com and ESPN+ are offering three additional channels: one from Amen Corner (the 11th, 12th and 13th holes), one on the 15th and 16th holes and another channel for the fourth, fifth and sixth holes, which debuted at the 2020 Masters.
A separate channel will provide spotlight coverage of two featured groups from the morning and afternoon waves each day.
The Par 3 Contest will also return this year, with coverage on Masters.com and ESPN+ from noon to 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday, with ESPN showing two hours from 3 to 5 p.m.
The honorary starters ceremony begins at 7:40 a.m. Thursday.
Plenty of competition
Last year’s champion, Hideki Matsuyama, the first Japanese man to win a golf major championship, figures to be one of the favorites — if he can overcome a back injury that has kept him out of competition since the Arnold Palmer Invitational in early March.
Another favorite is 27-year-old Jon Rahm, who has finished in the top 10 the past four years at Augusta. Scottie Scheffler is another to pay attention to, as he is currently the No. 1 golfer in the world.
Tiger looks to make another comeback
This year, all eyes will be fixated on a familiar face after a Tuesday news conference in which five-time Masters champion Tiger Woods indicated that he plans on participating this year.
The annual tournament in Augusta, Ga., has been a focal point for Woods’ career. Not even a year into his first PGA Tour, he won the Masters in 1997 at age 21. He followed that up with back-to-back wins in 2001 and 2002.
A 2009 car crash and subsequent sex scandal led to an extraordinary fall from grace for the superstar that was made only worse by a 2017 DUI arrest, which Woods blamed on mismanagement of his pain medication.
During Woods’ early successes, many had presumed it was only a matter of time before he would surpass legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 major championship wins. But multiple injuries, personal turmoil and four back surgeries culminated in an almost 11-year title drought for Woods.
Many thought he would never play competitively again.
Then, in 2019, at age 43, he came from behind to stun the sports world, winning his 15th major title and fifth Masters. One Masters shy of Nicklaus. It was a comeback that Woods’ biographer, Jeff Benedict, told NPR could go down as one of the greatest in the history of sports.
“What he came back from is unprecedented because of just how far he’d fallen,” Benedict said. “This was one of the greatest athletes in history who had an incredibly precipitous fall that took him right out of the game. It turned his life upside down. And we all watched it. And then it culminated with a series of injuries that took him out of the sport entirely. People didn’t expect him to ever play again, let alone come back and do something like win the Masters.”
Tiger was back.
Then came another car crash in 2021.
Driving at estimated speeds between 84 and 87 mph, Woods crashed his SUV, hitting a tree, which caused the vehicle to go airborne and eventually land on its side. He sustained multiple injuries to his right leg, which needed to be stabilized by inserting a rod into the tibia. Screws and pins were put into his foot and ankle, and his doctors discussed a possible amputation.
Lucky to be alive, Woods faced a long road to recovery. He spent three months in a hospital bed, telling reporters that just seeing sunlight again was a goal. And although many imagined his return to golf in some form, he told reporters at last December’s PNC Championship, his first competition since the car crash, that he was still a ways off from playing tournament golf.
That didn’t stop rumors from swirling that he might return to Augusta 25 years after winning his first Masters.
Fans originally noticed that Woods’ name was included on the list to play in the tournament. Then there was a tracked flight from Florida. And on Monday, large crowds gathered to watch him practice at Augusta. It all raised the question: Would he play?
As of Tuesday, it appears the answer is yes.
“As of right now, I feel like I am going to play,” Woods said at the news conference.
Less than 14 months after his accident, it appears that Woods will once again step onto the green at Augusta.
And though it’s yet to be seen at what level he will compete, one thing is certain: You can never count Tiger Woods out.
Phil Mickelson will not play at Augusta this year
One golf legend who will not be making an appearance this week is Phil Mickelson, who will miss the Masters for the first time in 28 years after making controversial comments about Saudi Arabia and a new Saudi-backed golf league.
In February, golf writer Alan Shipnuck published an excerpt from his upcoming biography of Mickelson in which the golfer spoke candidly about a Saudi-backed Super Golf League that was attempting to attract some of the sport’s top talent.
“They’re scary motherf*****s to get involved with,” Mickelson said in the interview, posted on the golf website Fire Pit Collective.
“We know they killed [Washington Post reporter and U.S. resident Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it?” he continued. “Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.”
After the interview became public, Mickelson said that his comments were “reckless” and that he was “deeply sorry for my choice of words,” while still noting, “Golf desperately needs change.”
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan declined to comment on any disciplinary matters related to Mickelson while speaking with the press in March but said that he would welcome a conversation with Mickelson about his return to the PGA Tour.