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Tiger Woods plans to play in the Masters, marking his return to golf tournaments

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Just over a year ago, golfer Tiger Woods was severely injured in a single-car crash near Los Angeles. On Thursday, he plans to return to major tournament golf at the Masters. As NPR's Tom Goldman reports, it's the latest dramatic comeback for the 15-time major champion.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Tiger Woods showed up at Augusta National Golf Course this past weekend, and that clatter coming from Georgia was the sound of golf reporters deleting their pre-Masters stories because there was only one story now. Nearly 14 months after doctors considered amputating his right leg, Woods was seriously mulling another go at the green jacket awarded annually to the Masters winner. Tuesday - his decision.

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TIGER WOODS: Well, as of right now, I feel like I am going to play - as of right now.

GOLDMAN: During practice rounds Sunday and Monday, Woods limped on a right leg filled with rods, plates and screws. But he told reporters he wasn't in Augusta just with a happy-to-be-here attitude.

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WOODS: You guys know me better than that. I don't show up to an event unless I think I can win it.

GOLDMAN: That attitude carried Woods to one of his most dramatic tournament victories - the 2019 Masters, his first major championship since 2008, and one that came a couple of years after spinal fusion surgery. His comebacks from many surgeries and injuries are part of his legend, right along with the 15 major titles, a record-tying 82 PGA tournament wins, and, of course, the scandal with his multiple marital infidelities. Now this chapter, one that will prompt golf fans around the world to tune in and watch Woods' gait as he navigates the long and undulating Augusta golf course as much as they marvel at his powerful swing. It's his focus, too.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WOODS: I don't have to worry about the ball striking or the game of golf. It's actually just those hills out here. That's going to be the challenge, and that's going to be a challenge of a major marathon.

GOLDMAN: If anyone can meet the challenge, it's Woods, so says fellow pro Brooks Koepka, who noted - in his sometimes-cranky way - the significance of Woods' return to golf.

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BROOKS KOEPKA: I mean, we need him. The game needs him. Everybody needs him. The fans need him - all that stuff.

GOLDMAN: All that stuff is about to transform staid Augusta into a madhouse - well, as mad a place can be that bans running around the course - because Tiger's back. And for the entire world of sports, not just golf, that means pay attention. There could be more magic, even with all the rods, plates and screws.

Tom Goldman, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.