Tiger Woods is back.
His appearance at Augusta National this week comes as a pleasant surprise, and its sent a jolt through the grounds at golf’s most anticipated tournament. No matter what happens this week, the biggest story will always be Tiger. He is, as the old cliche says, the needle.
Thus far, the return has blown away even the most optimistic of expectations. Woods opened the tournament with a rock-solid 71 on Thursday and then came back with a gritty 74 in tough conditions in Round 2. His one-over total leaves him T19 heading into the weekend.
The roars are back, too — and players have noticed. Now at the halfway mark in the 86th Masters, we take a look at what players are saying about having golf’s biggest star back in their midst.
1. Will Zalatoris
“It’s awesome. Yesterday I was walking off 6, and you see people 15 deep around 16 when he made birdie, and he gives a little fist pump. I mean, I’m used to seeing that on TV. Obviously seeing it in person is pretty cool. People always talk about he moves the needle, but he is the needle … He’s the greatest of all time. Obviously considering that he’s come back after what he’s had and he’s playing this amount of golf, you could argue this is probably his best accomplishment. I mean, it’s pretty incredible.”
2. Dustin Johnson
“It’s good for golf, for sure. He brings a lot more excitement and fans, a lot more people watching. I mean, I think all of us like having Tiger back.”
3. Scottie Scheffler
“I would say Tiger takes a lot of attention away from all of us, which I think is a good thing for us. He’s used to being in the spotlight. Tiger is the needle for professional golf … We’re glad to see him back. He’s done so much for professional golf. The Tour looks a lot different than it did in 1996 before he came out, so we’re all very grateful and we’re hopeful to have him back.”
4. Justin Thomas
“It’s awesome, man. Obviously I think the world of the guy, and I’m sure y’all are in the same boat. If he is playing, he is the GOAT. He is going to play great, but he actually does it. It’s like, wow, it’s unbelievable. I’m pumped for him. I’m happy for him. I’ve seen how hard he has worked and seen all the things he has done behind the scenes. Yeah, it’s very, very impressive for him to make the cut and be playing as well as he is.”
5. Tyrrell Hatton
“It’s pretty special that he is here. Obviously, he had a pretty impressive round yesterday. Conditions, again, weren’t easy, and obviously, he knows this place pretty well, but as a competitor, I guess as a fan, it’s pretty special to have him back.”
6. Sergio Garcia
“We didn’t even know if he was going to be able to walk or forget about playing golf. Obviously, yeah, it’s very impressive to see, but we’ve seen it in the past from him. So, it’s a little bit surprising to an extent.”
7. Patrick Cantlay
“I think it’s great for golf. It’s been a long time, over a year since he’s been playing, and I think we’re all rooting for him.”
8. Marc Leishman
“It’s impressive, very impressive. Coming up where he came from, what, 14, 15 months ago. Yes, it’s only day one, but all the signs are there that he’s going to hang around, and these conditions would be right up his alley. Yeah, I think everyone’s very impressed.”
9. Collin Morikawa
“I’ve never heard roars like that. Especially at Augusta when everything kind of echoes a little bit more. I think we were walking down 6, and D.J. and I heard that Tiger I think made birdie, and you can hear that. There’s nothing like it.”
10. Joaquin Niemann
“I really enjoyed playing with Tiger. Between the rounds, I was probably not thinking about it, but I know that any time I’m going to look back on these two days, it’s going to look like a really special moment.”