Tiger Woods steals Donald Trump’s thunder by landing at Augusta early

April 8, 2024

Five-time champion Tiger Woods arrived at Augusta National on Sunday ahead of the 88th Masters tournament – The MastersDonald Trump doubtless thought he would attract the majority of the Sunday golfing headlines by turning up unexpectedly on the final day of the LIV Golf tournament at his Doral course in Miami.Until, that is, Tiger Woods’ walked on to the first tee here at Augusta National.While the former President was theatrically shaking the hands of his LIV buddies – Bubba Watson and Bryson DeChambeau to name but two – Woods was on his way to the tournament which encapsulates his legend more than any other.With no fans allowed – which unlike Trump, is just how Woods likes it – he ventured out for practice on the course that defines his legend unlike any other.Donald Trump (centre) was seen on the practice green prior to the final round of LIV Golf Miami – AP/Rebecca BlackwellThe last time the 48-year was seen at The Masters was in last year’s third round. He withdrew after seven holes and was later to have a procedure that fused the bones in his right ankle.It was a bleak scenario and Sir Nick Faldo was just one observer that day to wonder if he had played his last round in the Masters, and indeed competitive golf as a whole.In fact, Faldo almost pleaded with his fellow green-jacketeer to retire. “How much pain he is in?” he asked. “He’s got to get realistic…if you can’t walk four days, when are you going to call it a day? The fans do not want to see him like this.”Yet here Woods is, 12 months on, having managed to finish one round of official tournament golf in the interim, apparently ready to compete and face the questions. Woods will know they will be numerous.The Masters’ X, formerly Twitter account posted images of Tiger Woods at Augusta National on Sunday – The MastersIn December, he made a ‘soft’ comeback at one of his foundation’s tournaments – the Hero World Championship in the Bahamas – where he came 18th of 20. His return proper came at the Genesis Invitational in LA in February and in just his sixth start since the car crash in the same city that three years earlier had so almost cost him his right leg, he was forced to withdraw with illness during the second round.No dramas. Everyone expected him to play at The Players, but he skipped last month’s flagship event on the PGA Tour without explanation. Instead, he set the March agenda by attending a players’ meeting with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of the Saudi sovereign wealth fund and the chairman of LIV Golf.Woods is on the Tour’s policy board and has emerged as a huge figure in the negotiations to strike a peace deal. All very noble, but why has he not played since recovering from that bout of influenza in LA? Have his injuries flared up again and if so what is he doing here?The cynics will claim Woods is duty bound because of the clothing sponsorship deal he recently signed with TaylorMade. His “Sun Day Red” line is due to launch on May 1 and the exposure at The Masters – the most watched of the four majors in the United States – will be seen as paramount in the marketing division.Yet Woods’s desire to compete surely cannot be doubted. Not after all he has proved, particularly in this event five years ago when he won his first major in 11 years. Nobody had given him a Tiger’s chance in Hell of a fifth greenjacket, when he was suffering with back issues that required four surgeries,Woods has only played one PGA Tour event this year, making it 24 holes at the Genesis Invitational before withdrawing due to illness – The MastersHowever, he showed the world it was wrong on that occasion and, somewhere in the remarkable psyche will reside the belief that he can do it again. Perhaps not this year – daft even by his surreal standards – but in the future, if he can live up to the wish he expressed at the Hero that he could manage to tee it up once a month.Meanwhile, in golfing reality Rory McIlroy shot a 66 to finish third on 11-under at the Texas Open, nine behind American Akshay Bhatia. McIlroy’s final-round 66 was clearly a confidence-booster as he heads into his 10th attempt at completing the career grand slam.“I definitely feel like I’m in a better place than I was a few weeks ago,” he said. “If I can control of my emotions and my thoughts, it makes the physical control of everything more simple. It is all about discipline, about staying in control.”Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 3 months with unlimited access to our award-winning website, exclusive app, money-saving offers and more.