Woods is scheduled to start the first round of the 2022 Masters in Augusta, Georgia at 10:34 a.m. ET Thursday morning.
The 15-time major champion has been out of competitive golf for more than a year, after sustaining serious leg injuries in a car accident in February 2021.
“Right now I feel like I’m going to play,” Woods said, ending weeks of speculation. “From now on.”
Woods, 46, had been spotted playing a few practice rounds at Augusta National, including a Monday, which fueled rumors of a comeback.
“I worked hard,” Woods said. “My team has been amazing. I’ve been blessed with great surgeons and great physiotherapists and physical therapists who have worked on me pretty much every day. And we’ve worked hard to get there… That has been a tough, tough year.”
Woods is grouped with Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa and Joaquin Niemann of Chile. They are due to start the second round at 1:41 p.m. ET on Friday.
His spectacular comeback comes 25 years after the 1997 Masters, the first of his 15 championships. Woods was just 21 when he transformed the game – and his life – by becoming the first non-white golfer to win the sport’s most prestigious tournament.
Woods said it’s “hard to believe it’s been 25 years.”
“It’s great to be back and to be able to feel the energy and excitement of the customers again.”
“Very, very grateful,” Woods said when asked by CNN’s Patrick Snell what words he would choose to reflect on the past 14 months.
“Thank you for everyone’s support. Everyone who has been involved in my work process that I have accomplished every day. The people I work with, my whole team… All the support from the players here.”
To get this far, he said, was a success in itself.
“Now it’s all focused on how I get into the position where I am on that back nine on Sunday with a chance ‘to win again,’ Woods added.
“When I decide to hang up, when I feel like I can’t win anymore, then that will be it,” he said. “But I feel like I can still do it, and I feel like I still have the hands to do it, the body is moving quite well.”
“Everyone Needs Him”
One of his playing partners seemed certain of what will happen on Thursday.
“It’s not shocking because he’s the greatest player to ever play,” Fred Couples told reporters ahead of Woods’ announcement.
“If he can walk around here 72 holes, he’ll be arguing. He’s too good.”
And 2021 FedEx Cup champion Patrick Cantlay said Woods’ return was the “greatest thing” for golf.
“He’s a good example of life not always being perfect, so it’s really exciting to see him on his highs,” he told the media.
“And so hopefully he’s able to play this week and play well, and that’s obviously the best thing for our sport. There’s definitely a different feel to the tournaments he’s playing in.”
In last year’s car accident in Los Angeles, Woods suffered comminuted open fractures that affected his right tibia and fibula, which are the two long bones directly below the knee.
Someone who knows a thing or two about returning from serious injury is four-time major winner Brooks Koepka.
The 31-year-old has had to endure his own share of injury problems, missing considerable time in recent years due to surgical recovery and rehabilitation.
And Koepka, who enters the 2022 Masters as one of the favorites for the green jacket, said he understood what Woods might be going through.
“I was kind of in his place last year, two weeks after the operation. This place is not really easy,” he told the media. “I understand what he is up against. It will be difficult. But if anyone can do it, it’s him.”
Koepka added: “I am happy that he is in better health and able to play golf…we need him, the game needs him, everyone needs him, the fans need him, all that. But at the end of the day, everyone is just here competing. I’m worried about myself and I’m sure everyone is worried about themselves.