Tiger Woods’ return to golf at Masters would be ‘phenomenal,’ says Rory McIlroy

CNN  — 

A return to golf for Tiger Woods at the Masters next week would be “phenomenal,” says Rory McIlroy.

The 15-time major winner sparked speculation that he could make a dramatic return to the sport at the 2022 Masters after it was widely reported that he has played a practice round at Augusta National on Tuesday.

The 46-year-old has not played an official tournament after suffering serious leg injuries in a car crash in February 2021.

And McIlroy said on Wednesday that golf is “heightened” when Woods is participating.

“I think for golf and for the Masters tournament and for everyone, to have Tiger there would be phenomenal,” McIlroy told reporters during a press conference at the Valero Open in San Antonio, Texas on Wednesday.

Woods celebrates on the 18th green after winning the 2019 Masters.

“I think it just adds to the event. Obviously, it does. Anything Tiger Woods does in the game of golf is heightened whenever he’s there. I mean, it would be awesome for him to be there.

“He was there yesterday obviously and he’s trying to see what he can do. Obviously, no one knows but him if he can make it around and think, you know, if he believes he can compete.”

Woods was named among the 91 starters for the 2022 Masters, which begins on April 7, earlier this week.

Speculation about a possible return to golf was whipped into a frenzy on Tuesday when his private jet was reportedly spotted landing at an airport near Augusta.

Rumors were heightened when reports emerged that the five-time Masters winner was playing a practice round at Augusta with his son, Charlie, and world No. 7 and good friend Justin Thomas.

Although Woods’ return isn’t certain, McIlroy praised the way he has looked after his body in recent years, even before his 2021 car accident.

“I’ve said this so many times, but from basically March 2017, fast-forward two years and he wins the Masters and where he was with his body and what he had to do to get back to being somewhat healthy,” the Northern Irishman explained.

“And it’s not even being somewhat healthy, it’s also what he has to do before the round and after the round just to get himself ready to go and play golf.

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McIlroy waits to hit on the first hole during the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

“The sheer will and perseverance, it is incredible, and if he comes back from this again, it’s just he likes to prove people wrong, he likes to prove himself wrong, I think.

“Regardless of when he does come back – whether it’s next week or a few weeks, few months down the line – he’s a wonderful addition to the game. And the game of golf is better when he’s playing and when he’s playing well.”

Woods’ only appearance in competitive golf since the crash was in December 2021 alongside son Charlie at the PNC Championship at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando, Grande Lakes in Florida, where Woods and his son finished second.