Martin Dempster: Why Tiger Woods deserves all the time he needs to make huge Masters call

He called it a “game-time decision”. In football parlance, that means Tiger Woods will have a late fitness test before deciding if he can play in this week’s Masters.

Tiger Woods smiles at caddie Joe LaCava as he warms up ahead of a second practice round prior to the 86th Masters. Gregory Shamus/Getty Images.
Tiger Woods smiles at caddie Joe LaCava as he warms up ahead of a second practice round prior to the 86th Masters. Gregory Shamus/Getty Images.

Depending on his tee time, the five-time winner at Augusta National could leave it as late as Thursday lunchtime to make the call.

It should be made clear straight away that he’s not being unfair to a fellow player by hanging off because there are no reserves in The Masters.

Woods has been the talk of the steamie since he paid a visit to the Georgia venue last Tuesday to play a practice round with his son Charlie and former US PGA champion Justin Thomas.

Until that point, no-one knew that a sensational return to competitive action could be on the cards for the 15-time major winner.

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It’s around 14 months since Woods was involved in a single-car accident in Los Angeles and almost lost his right leg.

Returning to action at one of the most undulating courses in the game didn’t really seem a possibility, but it is now and Tiger talk is thick in the Georgia air.

He played nine holes on Sunday afternoon, missing just one fairway and making a few birdies on the back nine.

The 46-year-old knows this place like the back of his hand. That’s not even in the equation as far as that big decision is concerned.

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It’s about whether or not his leg can stand the test and only Woods himself will know for certain, though, even then, there could be an element of risk if he decides to give it a go.

For now, the Augusta National officials will be happy that he’s around in the build up. The event’s 86th edition is plastered over every TV channel in the US.

From the moment he arrived at the course just before 2pm on Monday, he was the centre of attention because, as has been the case since he made his first appearance here as an amateur back in 1995, Woods moves the needle in golf like no-one else.

With all due respect to new world No 1 Scottie Scheffler and the likes of Open champion Collin Morikawa and Olympic gold medallist Xander Schauffele, Woods is still the player most people want to see.

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Having looked great physically when he hit a total of 33 balls on the range before heading out on Sunday, he looked a little bit stiff on his return just under 24 hours later.

Rob McNamara, who is executive vice president of Tiger Woods Ventures, has been at his side on both days along with his trusty caddie, Joe LaCava.

Only Woods knows what his plan is between now and Thursday, but Mother Nature could have a hand in his decision. Tuesday’s forecast is horrific, meaning that practice rounds could be curtailed or washed out completely.

After spending 45 minutes on the range on Monday, he headed out for another hit, this time in the company of Thomas, one his closest friends on the PGA Tour, and 1992 Masters winner Fred Couples.

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The waiting game goes on, but, if anyone deserves time to make a huge call, then it surely has to be the man who has done so much for the game since landing the first of his Masters wins in 1997.

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