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Rory McIlroy on potential Tiger Woods return: 'He likes to prove people wrong'

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Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods were both on property Tuesday at Augusta National.

Only one, of course, has confirmed his participation in next week’s Masters.

While McIlroy was scouting some of the changes to the course, Woods reportedly played an 18-hole practice round with son Charlie and Justin Thomas as Woods tested his game and fitness ahead of the year’s first major. Though he could conceivably wait until his Thursday tee time before making an announcement, a decision on his status for the Masters could come in the next few days.

“I think for golf and for the Masters Tournament and for everyone, to have Tiger there would be phenomenal,” McIlroy said Wednesday at the Valero Texas Open. “I think it just adds to the event. Anything Tiger Woods does in the game of golf is heightened whenever he’s there. It would be awesome for him to be there. ...

Podcast: After Tiger's trip, we wait - and talk

Tiger Woods made a trip to Augusta National Golf Club on Tuesday, ramping up speculation that he might play in next week's Masters.

“He’s trying to see what he can do. Obviously, no one knows but him if he can make it around and if he believes he can compete.”

Woods hasn’t played an official event since the 2020 Masters, when the event was pushed to November because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He was out the first part of 2021 while recovering from a fifth back surgery, and then he suffered severe injuries to his right leg during his February 2021 car accident.

Since he played with Charlie in the PNC Championship in December – a 36-hole scramble during which he rode a cart – Woods has offered few updates on his progress. At the Genesis Invitational in February, he reiterated that he plans to return to competition but that he still had a “long way to go” in his rehabilitation and was “still working on the walking part.”, citing an unnamed source, reported that Woods played all 18 holes at Augusta National on Tuesday and that he “looked good.”

If the 46-year-old Woods returns next week – in the near future, or even at all – McIlroy said it’d be yet another remarkable chapter in Woods’ now-Hall of Fame career.

“The sheer will and perseverance, it’s incredible,” McIlroy said. “If he comes back from this again – he likes to prove people wrong. He likes to prove himself wrong, I think. Regardless of when he does come back, 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.”