That’s all it took to convince Fred Couples that Tiger Woods will not only play in The Masters this week but potentially contend for a fifth Green Jacket, too.
Couples, a winner at Augusta National in 1992, joined Woods and Justin Thomas for nine holes on Monday afternoon in scenes and sounds more reminiscent of a Masters Sunday.
A huge crowd roared for Tiger from the moment he emerged from the clubhouse around lunchtime and followed him in their droves as he navigated the front nine.
And whilst Woods has yet to officially commit to making what would be his first start of any real significance since the November Masters of 2020, Couples is in no doubt that the 15-time major champion is ready to play and, quite possibly, contend, saying that he looked “phenomenal”.
“He drove it really, really well, so that’s the first battle,” said Couples. “And then the pins, believe it or not, were in not very fun spots. A lot of them were on slopes. We just stayed away from those.
“He didn’t putt much, but it’s Tiger Woods, he knows how to putt, he knows how to play this course.
“But irons, yeah, and the driver was a machine. He hit it in the bunker on two but he smoked it, drove it pin high almost on three. He looks great.”
Couples, no stranger to injuries himself, added that he saw no obvious signs of pain in Woods’ game.
“He’s kind of a tough guy. He’s never going to let you know he’s in pain. He looked good walking, but pain? You can always be in pain, right? But to hit it like that, now it’s just the walking part.
“If he can walk around here in 72 holes, he’ll contend. He’s too good.
“What impresses me the most is he was bombing it for one. If you want to talk golf, he was bombing it. I know JT is not the longest hitter on the tour, but I know he’s damn long. He was with him flushing it.
“As a friend and the way he looked, he’s very impressive.”