Woods remains listed as among the current invitees to appear in the 86th edition of The Masters, live from April 7-10 on Sky Sports’ dedicated channel; six-time major winner Mickelson among the past champions not set to play
Phil Mickelson will miss The Masters for the first time since 1994 next month, live on Sky Sports, but could we see Tiger Woods made an unlikely comeback at Augusta National?
Mickelson’s name has been removed from the list of competitors for the opening men’s major of the year, with the three-time recipient of the Green Jacket listed as a “past champion not playing” on the tournament’s website.
Some 86 players are currently listed as invitees to the 86th edition of The Masters, with Woods still among those down to compete from April 7-10 despite not featuring in an official PGA Tour event since his last Augusta National appearance in November 2020.
Woods is an automatic qualifier as a past champion, with his 2019 success his fifth Masters victory and 15th major title, while his name still being on the current list of competing players has fuelled speculation about whether the former world No 1 is close to making a sensational return.
The 46-year-old has gone through extensive rehabilitation since suffering serious leg injuries in a car crash last February, two months on from undergoing further surgery on his back, with Woods’ latest recovery being followed closely by the golfing world.
Woods was seen hitting driver on the range during his role as tournament host at December’s Hero World Challenge, with the 82-time PGA Tour winner then impressing when playing alongside his son, Charlie, at the PNC Championship later that month.
Although Woods has already stated he will be at Augusta to attend the annual Champions’ Dinner on the Tuesday of tournament week, he was non-committal on the possibility of a playing return when interviewed at last month’s Genesis Invitational.
“I don’t know,” Woods said when asked about competing come Thursday at The Masters. “I’ll be there Tuesday and it will be a great dinner – I don’t know what kind of sushi we are going to have!”
There is still a strong possibility that Woods may not feature at Augusta National, 25 years on from winning his maiden major at the venue, with just over two weeks for him to decide whether his game is ready to return.
Every day that Woods’ name remains on the invitees’ list, the golfing world will get more excited that Tiger’s return is edging closer.
When will Mickelson return to action?
Mickelson is currently taking a break from golf following the fallout from his explosive comments about the PGA Tour and a potential Saudi-backed rival circuit, with the 51-year-old last competing at the Asian Tour’s Saudi International in early February.
The six-time major announced he would be taking a break from golf on February 22, in apologising for his “reckless” comments, where he accused the PGA Tour of acting like a “dictatorship” and admitted he was using the threat of a breakaway to “reshape” how the Tour operates.
The golfing world had reacted with criticism and dismay to Mickelson’s comments, with Rory McIlroy dubbing his initial words “egotistical and ignorant”, while Mickelson reiterated his belief that golf “desperately needs change” in his apology statement.
“There is the centre mentality that The Masters could protect Phil [Mickelson] and that people are more respectful, the fans are more respectful and question are more filtered there, but they can’t protect Phil from the locker room,” Eamon Lynch told Golf Channel’s Golf Today show.
“It was striking to me in the past couple of weeks on the ground, at The Players and the Arnold Palmer Invitational, that there is nobody out there siding with Phil [Mickelson].
“When Tiger [Woods] had his issues a lot of people said rightly they are personal issues, they’re for him and his family and they’re nobody else’s business, but it’s a different story here in the Phil Mickelson scenario.
“He is not particularly popular with the players right now and there are a couple of key things coming up for him. Obviously he’s supposed to defend the PGA Championship in May. The defending champion typically does an on-site media day. If you look at last year at Kiawah Island, Collin Morikawa – the winner the previous year – was there for that event on April 13.
“The week after The Masters roughly, give or take, is roughly the timeframe where we’d see whether Phil Mickelson turns up to that event. It’s very unclear at this point, even to the PGA of America, if they’re going to see Phil Mickelson and when.”