Jocular Tiger Woods serious about Masters mission as he explains why he's not wearing Nike shoes

Tiger Woods even cracks jokes these days. “Everyones loves Freddie - that’s why they all came out,” he quipped of Fred Couples, who, along with Justin Thomas, had played nine holes with Woods on Monday in front of a small army of Masters patrons.

The 15-time major winner, who used to be as straight-faced as they come, especially in the peak of his career, indulged in more humour when, during a press conference ahead of this week’s opening men’s major of the season, he was asked if it would be uphill, downhill or side hill lies that would be more troublesome to him at undulating Augusta National. “All,” he replied to that to a chorus of laughter in the Press Building.

Even despite fearing that his right leg might be amputated following a serious car crash in Los Angeles around 14 months ago and not having played in a PGA Tour event since then, some things haven’t changed, though, when it comes to the 46-year-old.

“I don't show up to an event unless I think I can win it,” he declared, something, in fairness, that has remained consistent in his career, having been in a similar situation before following surgeries to his knees and back. “There will be a day when it won't happen, and I'll know when that is.” Not just yet, though.

Tiger Woods hits of a bunker on the practice area at Augusta National in the build up to The Masters. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.

The majority of people seem excited about Woods teeing up again this week, but, at the same time, some have got hot under the collar about him having been the only story in town in the countdown to the event’s 86th edition.

Those scoffing about him should remember that he’s proved us all wrong in the past and, on that basis alone, is capable of doing it again, even in the face of a new level of adversity, even by his standards.

“It's been a tough, tough year and a lot of stuff that I had to deal with that I don't wish on anyone, but here we are, Masters week,” he said. “I've had to endure pain before. This is different obviously. This is a lot more traumatic, what has transpired to my leg. We've had to put in a lot of work. I'm very thankful to my surgeons and my PTs and physios that have worked on me and have given me this opportunity to play golf.”

After being in a car that was hit head-on by a bus on a foggy Texas highway in 1949, Ben Hogan suffered a broken pelvis in two places, had fractures of his collarbone, left ankle and suffered blood clots. But, after being in hospital for 59 days, he won the US Open later that year.

Billy Horschel after his weekend win in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. Picture: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images.

“Obviously, he didn't have the technology that we have now,” said Woods in reply to being asked if he was drawing inspiration from his fellow American, “but the amount of hot tubs that he would have to take pre-round, post-round, in the middle of the night, just to be able to get up and swing a club the next day, I certainly appreciate that.

“The treatments have gotten so much better, and I'm very thankful for that because if I had to go through what had happened to me in my accident during his era, I wouldn't be playing this week, that's for sure.”

Billy Horschel, the first player to greet Woods when he walked on to the practice area on Sunday afternoon, has talked about how Woods had said to him at one stage that he wanted to walk away from the game. But his motivation to do what he does best is back.

“I feel like I can still do it, and I feel like I still have the hands to do it, the body's moving good enough,” insisted Woods. “I've been in worse situations and played and won tournaments. Now, I haven't been in situations like this where I've had to walk and endure what I'm going to try and endure, that's going to be different. It's a different challenge.

“But my back surgeries that I've had before and the stuff I had to play through, even going back to the US Open (in 2008) when my leg was a little bit busted, those are all times that I can draw upon where I was successful, how I've learned to block things out and focus on what I need to focus on. That's certainly going to be the challenge this week.”

When he was lying in bed for three months and couldn’t even get out to go into the living room, Woods thought playing again was “very unlikely”. He’s still walking a bit gingerly and explained why he’s not wearing Nike shoes on this occasion.

“I have very limited mobility now,” he said. “Just with the rods and plates and screws that are in my leg, I needed something different, something that allowed me to be more stable. That's what I've gone to.

“Nike's been fantastic over the years of providing me with equipment and we've been working on trying to find something to allow me to do this and swing again. We're still going to continue doing it, and hopefully we'll have something soon.”

Speaking in December as he hosted the Hero Challenge in the Bahamas, Woods said he felt at peace with what the future held after believing he’d already scaled a mountain by winning a fifth Green Jacket after fearing his career was over due to back trouble.

“Well, I love competing,” he replied to being asked what was his motivation to try and do it all over again and having an even bigger mountain to climb on this occasion. “And I feel like I can still compete at the highest level. And, if I feel like I can still win, I'm going to play.”

There was nothing jocular in his tone this time.

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Tiger Woods not only ready to play in The Masters but has sights set on winning

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