Tiger Woods’s decision to give it a go at the Masters, 14 months after suffering serious injuries to his right leg in a rollover car crash, has a hidden benefit for his rivals.

Fans — back in full strength at Augusta National this year after two years of Covid restrictions — flock to Woods, leaving the likes of Northern Ireland star Rory McIlroy and two-time major winner Dustin Johnson to pursue the green jacket in relative peace.

Johnson, who won the Masters in 2020 when it was delayed to November because of the pandemic, said he always likes to “slide in under the radar.”

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“It’s going to be his first tournament back in a long time,” Johnson said.

“Obviously, he’s one of greatest that’s ever played this game and especially in our era, so anytime he tees it up, especially after his injuries, he’s going to take a lot of attention, which is okay with me. I always like sliding in a little under the radar.”

The focus on Woods means McIlroy might face slightly fewer questions about his eighth attempt to complete a career Grand Slam at the Masters.

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“He creates attention on the game of golf that no one else can,” McIlroy said.

“That’s great for his peers. It’s great for the media. It’s great for this golf club. It’s great for everyone. So any time Tiger Woods is involved, it’s a wonderful thing.”

Talking to the Golf Channel, Scottie Scheffler said any time Woods plays it “deflects plenty of consideration from any of us”.

“It is undoubtedly simpler to fly beneath the radar and we’re all excited,” he said.

“Hopefully he can come out and play this week, it ought to be an enjoyable week if he does.”

John Rahm, meanwhile, joked Woods has already sealed up the Player Impact Program for another year.

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The PIP, which Woods won in 2021, rewards popularity based on factors such as internet searches generated, news articles written and sponsor exposure.

“I think what we all know for sure in three days is that Tiger Woods is going to win the PIP again for sure,” said Rahm.

“I think that is the biggest impact for all of us. He’s pretty much won it all in one week.”

“You can feel it, a lot of it is for Tiger. I was playing with Tony Finau on the front nine yesterday and we were about five holes ahead of him. We were on 7 and they were on 2. I’ve never seen a mass this big even on a Sunday in contention on those two holes.

“It feels like this Monday they let way more people come in because of the last year of limitations and Covid and what everyone has gone through. More people wanted to come out when Tiger is playing. There is a lot more electricity in the air.

“With Tiger there on Monday, it felt like a Sunday at a regular event.”

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As for how Woods will fare, McIlroy said he was “hitting and chipping well”, although admitted there could be one “question mark” hovering over the returning great.

“It’s just the physical demand of getting around 72 holes here this week,” McIlroy said.

“That’s probably the question mark. But the golf game is there. So, would I be surprised? No, I’m not surprised at anything he does anymore.”

Woods’ fellow rivals were not the only ones to react to the news of his return, check out the full reaction from the golf world on social media below!



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