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Tiger Woods hurts ‘every day,’ but believes he can win one more Masters

By Jack Bantock, CNN

(CNN) — These days, Tiger Woods merely being among the field at The Masters is a story in itself, but the five-time champion insists he’s not returning to Augusta National to make up the numbers – he’s playing to win.

The 48-year-old will tee up for the 26th time at the 88th edition of the prestigious tournament on Thursday, marking only his second competitive appearance of the season and his first major start since last year’s event in Georgia.

There, Woods withdrew during his third round after much limping, a painfully familiar sight in the 15-time major champion’s sporadic tournament appearances since suffering serious leg injuries in a 2021 car crash.

Doubts swirled as to whether he had played his final Masters – even Woods suggested it before the tournament began – but one year on, he is back and eyeing up Jack Nicklaus’ all-time record of six green jackets.

“If everything comes together, I think I can get one more. Do I need to describe that any more than that, or are we good?” Woods, smiling, told reporters Tuesday.

“I still think that I can [win],” he added. “I haven’t got to that point where I don’t think I can’t.”

To say it would be a shock victory would be something of an understatement. Despite Woods’ strong claim to being the greatest to ever swing a club, his recent injuries see the world No. 959 arrive in Augusta as a rank outsider in a star-studded 89-player field.

His bookmaker’s odds dwarf those of world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, a favorite for many given his scintillating form, defending champion Jon Rahm, grand slam chasing Rory McIlroy and a host of other stars who have accumulated a flurry of titles since Woods last won in October 2019. Six months earlier, he had ended an 11-year-wait for his 15th major title at Augusta National.

Earlier this week, one longtime friend expressed apprehensions over the 82-time PGA Tour winner’s ability to navigate the fabled course’s hilly terrain – concerns Wood did little to quell Tuesday.

“I hurt every day … I ache every day,” he admitted, adding that he would be playing with painkillers.

“As far as my physicality on certain shots, every shot that’s not on a tee box is a challenge,” continued Woods, who underwent surgery to fuse his ankle following last year’s withdrawal.

“The ankle doesn’t hurt anymore … so that’s fine. It’s other parts of my body that now have to take the brunt of it … the back, the knee, other parts of the body … and just the endurance capability of walking a long time and being on my feet for a long time.”

Even if he doesn’t win come Sunday, Woods will make history simply by making it to the weekend.

Woods has made the cut in 23 consecutive starts at Augusta National, a record he shares with Fred Couples and Gary Player. Despite boasting a career measured almost exclusively in silverware, Woods would be proud to set a new benchmark for reliability.

“It’s consistency, it’s longevity, and it’s an understanding of how to play this golf course,” he said.

“That’s one of the reasons why you see players that are in their 50’s and 60’s make cuts here, or it’s players in their late 40s have runs at winning the event, just the understanding of how to play it.”

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