Tiger Woods began his U.S. Open bid with a double bogey in 2008 at Torrey Pines – "a terrible start", said the man who four days later took the title in a sudden-death play-off, after he and Rocco Mediate could not be separated in a two-man fifth round.

The 18-hole play-off scenario is now history, so there will no repeat of such a marathon effort as the major returns after 13 years to the San Diego course this week, and there will be no Woods either.

That 2008 triumph was a 14th major for the American, yet he had to wait another 11 years until the 15th arrived, the man who once seemed booked in to take the major titles record away from Jack Nicklaus having seen perceptions of his life switch from fairy tale to soap opera.

Woods in 2008 was privately fighting the pain of a double stress fracture of his left tibia that he kept under wraps. Yes, he won the U.S. Open with a broken leg.

Whoever lifts the trophy this Sunday is unlikely to have to overcome the tribulations that faced Woods across that long weekend, and the superstar's absence is sure to be felt ... until the first round begins to take shape and a new narrative plays out.

Back in 2008, tournament organisers upped the intrigue by grouping Woods, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott – the world number one, two and three – together for the opening two rounds.

Local favourite Mickelson recalls the moment when Woods fluffed his opening hole.

"I thought that was pretty inspiring the way he didn't let that affect him," Mickelson said this week. "He stayed to his game plan, stayed focused, stayed patient, and ended up kind of picking his spots where he could get a shot back here or there, and he did, and he ended up winning. That's impressive."

After completing his opening round, Woods said his mindset after shooting six at the first was to "just be patient, long way to go", and he finished one over par.

By the end of day two, Woods stood tied for second place, with Mickelson and Scott in a group sharing 35th position.

"The atmosphere for the whole 36 holes that I played with Phil and Tiger was incredible," Scott recalled earlier this year. "But Thursday morning the energy around the first hole was like I can't compare it to anything else actually.

"It was not even like teeing off at the Masters or anything like that. The build-up ... Tiger obviously being Tiger and Phil, the local hero, one, two and three in the world, of course I was like the third wheel hanging off the back, but it was really fun to be a part of that."

Of course Woods is a once-a-generation talent, but should anyone make a similarly poor start this week, it would be wise to take the blow on the chin and move on.

This course, the long-time home of the annual Farmers Insurance Open, should reward a steady temperament.

Mickelson, fresh from his shock victory last month at the US PGA Championship, where he became the oldest winner of a major, described the Torrey Pines greens on Monday as "very challenging".

"There's a lot of pitch, a lot of contour, and as they get firmer, they're significantly firmer than just the last two days," he said.

"It's very difficult to get it to some of the pin positions, and it's going to be a difficult test. As long as it is at sea level it's going to be a difficult task, but it seems like the set-up is pristine, and it's going to be a fun, very difficult challenge."

 

WHO WILL WIN THIS TIME?

With Woods out of the picture, recovering from the car crash he was said to have been fortunate to survive in February, there will be no repeat of his famous success 13 years ago.

Woods has won the Farmers Insurance Open a record seven times too, so he would have been relishing this week. Brandt Snedeker and Jason Day are both two-time winners of that tournament, and Mickelson has been champion three times, but not since 2001.

Mickelson is seeking the trophy that would give him a career grand slam, but it seems fanciful to expect him to challenge, having rarely been a factor in the majors in recent years until his unexpected win at Kiawah Island.

Stats Perform has taken a combination of factors to build a list of potential contenders, assessing past performance at the Farmers Insurance Open but also weighting displays in majors and recent PGA Tour form.

These scores are built around performance at Torrey Pines from 2016 to this year.

In the calculations, top-10 finishers at the 2021 Farmers Insurance Open receive points on a scale from 15 for the champion down to six points for 10th place. This decreases on a year-by-year sliding scale to 10 points for the 2016 tournament winner and one point for 10th place in that event.

There is also two points awarded per top-10 finish on the PGA Tour in the 2021 season, and substantial points availability for recent major success (10 points per major title in 2020 and 2021, 8pts in 2019, 6pts in 2018, 4pts in 2017, 2pts in 2016).

Not all players in the U.S. Open field have played the Farmers Insurance Open each year, and some are rarely active, if at all, on the PGA Tour, but this may give an inkling of the players who could come into contention at the year's third major.

TONY FINAU, 52 points: Finau followed up three top-10 results at the Farmers (2017, 2018, 2020) by finishing a joint runner-up in 2021, pointing to a clear liking for the course. How he enjoys it later in the year than he usually encounters Torrey Pines remains to be seen. Finau also has seven top-10 finishes of tour in the 2021 season.

JON RAHM, 52 points: His first major title is arguably overdue, given his talent and week-by-week results. Rahm was Farmers champion in 2017 and runner-up in 2020, also finishing top 10 in 2019 and 2021. He has a tour-leading 10 top-10 finishes this season, and would surely have had a win at the Memorial Tournament earlier this month before a positive COVID-19 test ended his title charge after 54 holes.

PATRICK REED, 42pts: This year's champion at the Farmers Insurance Open, Reed was also top six there in 2020, has had six top-10 results on tour this season and landed a Masters title in his not-too-distant past.

RYAN PALMER, 33pts: Palmer tied for second earlier this year at Torrey Pines, just as he did in 2018. Those performances and his four top-10 finishes on tour this year make him perhaps the surprise name on this list.

BROOKS KOEPKA, 32pts: Koepka missed the cut this year at the Farmers and did the same in 2017, and he did not play the tournament in the intervening years. Although Koepka has little left to prove in a wider sense – his mountain of points here is accrued through past major wins and a healthy batch of top-10s this season – he has yet to master Torrey Pines. Koepka has also missed the cut at three of his most recent four tournaments this year.

RORY MCILROY, 31pts: Top-five finishes at the Farmers in 2019 and 2020 augur well for McIlroy, and his five top-10 finishes on tour this season is a tally he will aim to add to over the coming days. It may be asking a lot to expect him to carry off the title, but another high placing would seem realistic.

Next on the list: Justin Rose (30pts), Brandt Snedeker (29), Viktor Hovland (26), Xander Schauffele (26), Jason Day (25), Marc Leishman (25), Hideki Matsuyama (25) and Keegan Bradley (24).

Fifteen-time major winner Tiger Woods says leaning to walk again unaided is his top priority as he continues a painful recovery following his shocking car crash in February.

Woods suffered a comminuted open fracture in his right leg, which required emergency surgery, while also sustaining additional injuries to his foot and ankle as a result of the single-vehicle incident in California.

The 45-year-old returned home to Florida three weeks later and has undergone extensive rehabilitation since.

Woods is no stranger to going under the knife, having had five procedures on his back, but the pain experienced in the collision earlier this year was unlike anything the golf superstar has encountered.

"This has been an entirely different animal," he told Golf Digest.

"I understand more of the rehab processes because of my past [golfing] injuries, but this was more painful than anything I have ever experienced.

"My physical therapy has been keeping me busy. I do my routines every day and am focused on my number one goal right now: walking on my own. Taking it one step at a time."

Woods uploaded a picture of himself on crutches and his right leg in a brace to social media last month.

"It's funny because in that photo, the crutches definitely make my shoulders look big," he said.

"Maybe it's the workouts, too. It's been nice having the ability to still stay strong and work out my upper body."

Woods, who did not answer any questions on whether he intends to play competitive golf again, is thankful for the support he has received from well-wishers.

"It's been incredible," he said. "I have had so much support from people both inside and outside of golf which means so much to me and has helped tremendously."

Los Angeles police said in April that Woods' crash was caused by excessive speeds that caused him to lose control of the vehicle he was driving.

Police examined data recorded from the vehicle – a 2021 Genesis GV80 SUV – and found he was driving at speeds in excess of 80mph in an area with a 45mph speed limit.

He was travelling at an estimated 75mph when he hit a tree, with officers believing the 15-time major winner might have inadvertently hit the accelerator instead of the brake as there was no evidence of braking.

Tiger Woods congratulated "truly inspirational" Phil Mickelson after the American made history at the US PGA Championship on Sunday.

Mickelson defied form and age to capture the PGA Championship in history-making fashion following his two-shot triumph over Louis Oosthuizen and Brooks Koepka.

Not since February 2019 had Mickelson won on the PGA Tour, while the 50-year-old's last major triumph came at the Open Championship in 2013.

But Mickelson became the oldest major champion in golf history in South Carolina, where he secured a sixth major title and 45th Tour trophy.

Watching from the sidelines as he continues to recover from February's single-car crash, 15-time major winner and famous foe Woods used social media to hail Mickelson.

Woods wrote via Twitter: "Truly inspirational to see @PhilMickelson do it again at 50 years of age. Congrats !!!!!!!."

After reigning supreme, Mickelson – who has enjoyed a great rivalry with Woods – said: "This is just an incredible feeling because I just believed that it was possible but yet everything was saying it wasn't.

"I hope that others find that inspiration. It might take a little extra work, a little bit harder effort, but gosh, is it worth it in the end."

Tiger Woods has given the world a glimpse of his life since the shocking car crash that has left doubts over the future of the golf superstar.

On crutches and with his right leg in a brace, Woods was pictured on a golf course with a dog by his side.

And fans of golf's greatest superstar of the past 30 years would have enjoyed the sight of Woods smiling broadly at the camera.

In dark shorts and T-shirt, Woods was sporting a goatee beard and a back-to-front white baseball cap in the picture.

"My course is coming along faster than I am," Woods wrote on Instagram, accompanied by a smiling face. "But it's nice to have a faithful rehab partner, man's best friend."

Rehabilitation is likely to be a long process for the 15-time major winner, with Woods suffering severe leg injuries in the February 23 single-car crash in Los Angeles.

He has been recovering at his Florida home, with the hope he can one day return to competition.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff said Woods was driving at over 80 miles per hour in a 45mph zone when he lost control of his Genesis SUV and came off the road, hitting a tree. He was said on the day of the crash to have been fortunate to survive the impact.

Gary Player believes Tiger Woods will never win another major or be "a real force again" in golf.

Fifteen-time major winner Woods is recovering at his Florida home after the car crash in Los Angeles that saw him suffer severe leg injuries.

The 45-year-old hopes to return to competition, but the day that happens is a long way off.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff said Woods was driving at over 80 miles per hour in a 45mph zone on February 23 when he lost control of his Genesis SUV and came off the road, hitting a tree. He was said on the day of the crash to have been fortunate to survive the impact.

Player, who won nine majors in his own storied career, says it is hard to see Woods reviving the all-conquering game that brought him so much glory.

However, he expects the American superstar, who has battled back problems over the last seven years, to play again.

"Oh yes, my answer is emphatically yes," Player told Stats Perform News. "Yes, I do believe he will come back, and I do believe he will play in tournaments, but I don't believe he will win another major.

"He is getting on in age. Yes, I won the Masters at 42, [Jack] Nicklaus won it at 46, but he has been playing with a bad back. He has had four or five operations on his back - it's fused. He's had knee problems, he has had so many problems and eventually they can wear you down."

Woods has also spoken in the past of a "sleep disorder", and South African all-time great Player pointed to that as another possible factor that makes it improbable the former world number one will rise to the top of the game once more.

"So I don't think he will ever come out and be a real force again, but I hope I'm wrong," Player said. "I pray I am wrong, but that is just my opinion.

"I am not being naive and I am not being arrogant in my opinion - according to doctors, some doctors say he won't, some doctors say he will - but the will of a man is more important than a doctor's opinion sometimes."

Player, 85, is one of only five players, along with Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen, to have won golf's modern career Grand Slam by triumphing at each of the Masters, Open Championship, US PGA Championship and U.S. Open.

He said he missed Woods "terribly" during the recent Masters week.

"I can only tell you at the Masters dinner, with 33 champions in the room, it was brought up and everybody said, 'hear, hear', how much we miss Tiger and we hope he'll be back soon," Player said.

"To the contrary, most people say he will never play again, I know in my heart... Tiger Woods is a special man. He will come back and play the tournament again."

Hideki Matsuyama's maiden major triumph has elevated golf to a new level, according to Gary Player.

Matsuyama entered the history books as he became the first Japanese man to prevail at a major after winning The Masters on Sunday.

The 29-year-old, with five PGA Tour titles under his belt prior to his Augusta triumph, held his nerve to win by one shot and claim the famed green jacket.

Matsuyama (2011) became the third Masters champion in the last five years to have previously earned low amateur honours, following in the footsteps of Tiger Woods (2019, low amateur in 1995) and Sergio Garcia (2017, low amateur in 1999).

Having clocked up seven top-10 finishes across golf's four headline tournaments, Matsuyama catapulted himself into esteemed company with his Georgia glory and Player, a nine-time major winner, knows there is a huge gap between winners and also-rans. 

And he feels Matsuyama's success has taken the sport "up a notch".

"Now you see there are lots of ifs and ands, but finishing second, only your wife and your dog knows about it – that's if you've got a good dog," the South African, who donned the green jacket three times, told Stats Perform News.

"So now he comes along and he wins the Masters in great style and I said to him, 'I'm very happy that you won because you can be president or prime minister of Japan and I won't need a visa!'.

"No, his play was exemplary, he kept his cool, and what wins golf tournaments is not long driving as we are brainwashed about, it's the putter and the mind.

"I'm so happy he won because I want to see people win golf tournaments where golf is going to be the benefactor.

"More clubs will be sold around the world now and golf went up a notch. I always wanted to have the best world record as a global golfer, not just in America only, so for me to see an international player win, I'm always happy to see anybody win but it's going to do golf so much good. I can't tell you.

"If this wasn't during COVID you would have had people flying over from Japan the night before, the press people. He would have had 60 representatives of the media in Japan because they've been thirsting and hungry and starved for a major championship winner. And a golfing nation of that status has been deprived of that, and there they've got it at last. Thank goodness."

Hideki Matsuyama's breakthrough Masters triumph will "impact the entire golf world", according to 15-time major champion Tiger Woods.

Matsuyama made history as he became the first Japanese man to win a major tournament after claiming The Masters by one shot in a thrilling finale at Augusta on Sunday.

A five-time PGA Tour winner before this success, Matsuyama withstood a wobble and the threat posed by Xander Schauffele (72) and Will Zalatoris (70) to complete a history-making performance in Georgia, where he triumphed at 10 under par overall following a 73 to get his hands on the green jacket.

Matsuyama (2011) became the third Masters champion in the last five years to have previously earned low amateur honours, following in the footsteps of Woods (2019, low amateur in 1995) and Sergio Garcia (2017, low amateur in 1999).

Five-time Masters champion and American superstar Woods – who is recovering after a near-fatal single-car collision in February – congratulated the 29-year-old Matsuyama via social media.

"Making Japan proud Hideki. Congratulations on such a huge accomplishment for you and your country," Woods wrote on Twitter.

"This historic Masters win will impact the entire golf world."

Matsuyama – four strokes clear at the start of the day – had extended his lead to five at the turn, but his title bid threatened to turn sour as Schauffele closed in and Zalatoris loomed.

After finding water at the par-five 15th hole, Matsuyama took the penalty and cleaned up for bogey as Schauffele continued to heap pressure on the Japanese hopeful, cutting the lead to two shots with his fourth consecutive birdie.

But Schauffele's pursuit of a maiden major collapsed when the American – seven back at the 12th tee before rallying – also found water before sending his next shot into the crowd.

Matsuyama had a routine par to move three shots clear with two to play, but he dropped another shot, his lead down to two ahead of Zalatoris as an ill-timed triple-bogey sent 2019 runner-up Schauffele down to equal third alongside Spieth – four shots behind.

It was Schauffele's first triple-bogey in a major championship – a run of 1,042 holes.

That was the breathing space Matsuyama needed as Japan's new poster boy held his nerve, doing what he needed to do during the final two holes in front of an appreciative crowd on the 18th, where not even a bogey could wipe away the champion's smile.

What's the greatest achievement in the history of sports?

Is there a more difficult question for any fan to answer? It's such a subjective and divisive topic, and one that cannot truly be measured.

But that doesn't mean it's not fun to argue the toss nonetheless and on this day 20 years ago, Tiger Woods staked his own claim for the moniker by completing the unthinkable.

It was on April 8, 2001, when Woods won the Masters for a second time and by doing so he became the first player to ever be in possession of all four of golf's major trophies at the same time.

Because it was done over two seasons, Woods missed out on a calendar Grand Slam so the phenomenal achievement was dubbed the 'Tiger Slam'.

"It was exciting for everybody," four-time major winner Laura Davies recalled when speaking to Stats Perform News.

"I'm sure it was hard work for him and very mentally difficult for him to win all four in a year. It was just exciting to watch Tiger do it. 

"It just would have been lovely if he'd done it in one year because it's not quite the same but it's still some achievement to hold all four at one time. 

"It was good for the game definitely. I'm a big Tiger fan, I love watching his golf. At the time it was just really exciting and just making golf a more exciting game, more exciting for the younger fans and the game's built because of what he did then."

What Woods did transcended the game and enshrined his name even deeper within the list of all-time sporting greats.

Sadly, Woods will not be at Augusta – where he is a five-time champion – this week due to the injuries he suffered in a serious car accident in Los Angeles in February.

But the magnitude of his achievement will stand the test of time and, two decades on, we have taken a look back at the incredible 'Tiger Slam'.


U.S. Open 2000: Taking apart Pebble Beach

"My words probably can't describe it, so I'm not even going to try."

While Ernie Els, who took a distant share of second at the 2000 U.S. Open struggled to sum up Woods' utter domination at Pebble Beach, we should probably at least try.

Having already blasted into a six-shot lead through two rounds thanks to scores of 65 and 69, it was on the Saturday where Woods' class really told.

As the rest of the field struggled badly in wild playing conditions, Woods recovered from a triple bogey at the third to finish the round at level par and take the lead by 10 strokes – the largest 54-hole advantage at a U.S. Open.

If that's not impressive enough for you, then a closing 67 meant Woods was 15 shots clear of Els and Miguel Angel Jimenez. And, no, that is not a typo.


The Open 2000: Sensational at St Andrews 

There was a sense of deja vu at The Open just a month later.

There was a sense of deja vu at The Open just a month later.

Poor gags aside, it truly was remarkable to see Woods in full pomp completely in command of the Old Course at St Andrews – the spiritual home of golf.

Opening with a 67 to sit one shy of leader Els, by the end of Friday's play Woods was three shots clear. By the end of Saturday that lead had doubled to six.

A closing 69 wrapped up victory by eight from Els and Thomas Bjorn, with Woods becoming the youngest person to complete golf's Grand Slam in history.

"It wasn't long ago when I said there'd never be another Jack Nicklaus but we're looking at one. He is the chosen one," Mark Calcavecchia said of Woods at the time.


US PGA Championship 2000: Play-off glory at Valhalla

There wasn't quite the same level of domination for 2000's season-ending major at the US PGA Championship but there was a familiar outcome at Valhalla. 

Having led or co-led through three rounds, there was a ding-dong battle on the final day with Bob May, who missed a crucial birdie putt at the 15th on the same hole Woods made a clutch par.

Another gain from Woods at the 17th left them tied going up the last. May drained a 15-footer for birdie, but Woods sank his own pressure putt to force a three-hole play-off.

A birdie at the first additional hole was followed by two pars and that proved enough for Woods to join Ben Hogan as the only player to win three majors in one season.

"Tiger plays a different game than we play," May said after his defeat, with Woods saying of the win: "We never backed off. We went birdie-for-birdie, shot-for-shot. It was a very special day."


Masters 2001: The Tiger Slam

After opening with a steady 70, Woods was five shots back of first-round leader Chris DiMarco but scores of 66 and 68 had him leading by one from Phil Mickelson heading into the final round.

Mickelson was part of a star-studded leaderboard including Calcavecchia, DiMarco, Angel Cabrera, David Duval and Els – all of whom were within three of Woods.

Duval made a good fist of the challenge and even briefly tied for the lead by birdieing the 15th – only to give that shot straight back.

Needing only a par at the last, Woods finished with a birdie for a two-shot win to complete a truly epic moment of sporting history.

Tiger Woods' car crash in February was caused by "excessive speed", Los Angeles police have said.

Woods incurred serious injuries that leave him sidelined for this week's Masters after losing control of the SUV he was driving in Southern California.

Police examined data recorded from the vehicle – a 2021 Genesis GV80 SUV – and found he was driving at speeds in excess of 80mph in an area with a 45mph speed limit.

He was travelling at an estimated 75mph when he hit a tree, with officers believing the 15-time major winner might have inadvertently hit the accelerator instead of the brake as there was no evidence of braking.

“There was no evidence of intoxication or impairment," Sheriff Alex Villaneuva told reporters. Police did not seek a warrant for a blood sample.

Woods has posted on social media to express his thanks to the "good samaritans" who assisted him and the professionals who helped him "so expertly at the scene".

The American added: "I will continue to focus on my recovery and family, and thank everyone for the overwhelming support and encouragement I've received throughout this very difficult time."

Fellow golf star Rory McIlroy explained during a pre-Masters briefing that he visited Woods at the end of last month.

"Spent a couple hours with him, which was nice. It was good to see him," McIlroy said.

"It was good to see him in decent spirits. When you hear of these things and you look at the car and you see the crash, you think he’s going to be in a hospital bed for six months.

"But he was actually doing better than that."

It has been less than five months since Dustin Johnson donned the green jacket, but The Masters is upon us once again.

Golf, like all walks of life, was thrown into disorder by the global outbreak of coronavirus, with what was meant to be the first of 2020's four majors ending up being the last of three.

After Collin Morikawa and Bryson DeChambeau had prevailed at the US PGA Championship and U.S. Open respectively, Johnson completed an American clean sweep in a truncated season.

The world number one will return to Augusta to defend his title amid the usual fierce competition, although there will of course be no Tiger Woods this time.

With so much to look forward to ahead of what is sure to be another memorable tournament in Georgia, we have picked out a selection of some of the best Opta Facts relating to The Masters.

- Johnson will attempt to become the first golfer since Woods to win back-to-back green jackets (2001-2002); the only other golfers to have achieved that feat are Jack Nicklaus (1965-1966) and Nick Faldo (1989-1990).

- Nicklaus holds the record for most wins at the Masters (six), ahead of Woods (five).

- Woods is the youngest player to wear the green jacket (21 years, 104 days) while Nicklaus is the oldest – he was 46 years and 82 days old when winning his last major and green jacket in 1986.

- The only current golfer to have secured a top 10 in each of his last five Masters appearances is Johnson.

- Johnson set a new Masters scoring record of 268 (-20) in last year's win at Augusta. He is 32 under par over the last two editions; that is 10 shots better than anyone else over that period (Brooks Koepka, -22).

- Woods will be missing his fourth Masters over the last eight editions (since 2014). He had participated in each of the previous 19 Masters tournaments.

- A win would see Rory McIlroy become only the sixth golfer in history to secure a career Grand Slam, after – in chronological order – Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Nicklaus and Woods.

- American golfers have won 62 of the 84 editions of this tournament to date, with Spain and South Africa joint-second on five wins each.

- The Masters is the only major yet to have been won by a Northern Irish golfer. In total, players from Northern Ireland have won seven majors (two U.S. Opens, three Open Championships, two US PGA Championships), four of them by McIlroy.

- Only one of the last seven Masters tournaments has been decided by a play-off (Sergio Garcia versus Justin Rose in 2017). A play-off had been required in three of the previous five editions.

- Fuzzy Zoeller is the last player to win the Masters at the first attempt, back in 1979.

Rory McIlroy said golf's biggest stars must rally around Tiger Woods by making regular trips to his Florida mansion and he would love to be part of the sport's Grand Slam club by his next visit.

After winning an Open Championship, a U.S. Open and two US PGA Championships early in his career, McIlroy returns to Augusta for another shot at Masters glory this week.

Woods, who suffered serious leg injuries in a February car crash, would love to be involved but is recovering at home after that brush with disaster and hopes to play competitive golf again.

The American superstar became the first player since the 1960s to win all four of the sport's majors in his career when he landed the Open title in 2000 at St Andrews.

With 15 career majors, Woods is unmistakably an all-time great, and McIlroy would become just the sixth player to achieve the modern Grand Slam should he land green jacket glory. Jack Nicklaus, Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan and Gary Player are the players who achieved the feat before Woods came on the scene.

Speaking about the absent Woods ahead of Thursday's opening round, former world number one McIlroy said: "Hopefully, if his recovery goes well, who knows, he could be back in 12 months' time.

"He's always missed when he doesn't play in these big events, and that doesn't change this week, whether it's to do with his back or his leg or whatever it is.

"I know he's at home and he's fully focused on the recovery process, and I feel like he's mentally strong enough to get through that. And once he does, broken bones heel, and he's just got to take it step by step.

"I'm sure he's going to put everything he has into trying to be ready to play here next year. I went over and saw him, spent a couple hours with him, which was nice. It was good to see him. It was good to see him in decent spirits.

"When you hear of these things and you look at the car and you see the crash, you think he's going to be in a hospital bed for six months. But he was actually doing better than that. A few of us that live down in South Florida went to see him. I'm sure he appreciates that.

"I think myself, JT [Justin Thomas], Rickie [Fowler], DJ [Dustin Johnson], Brooks [Koepka], all those guys down there, we all have a responsibility to try to keep his spirits up and keep him going and try to get him back out here."

Nothing would give McIlroy more pleasure than being able to visit Woods as a Masters champion, with that Grand Slam monkey off his back. He has six top-10 finishes at the event in the last seven years, which shows what he has to offer.

The Masters is the mountain he has been unable to quite climb, meaning the 'Rory Slam' has yet to be completed.

"If I were able to do it, I'd join a very small list of golfers in history that have been able to do it. So I know where it would put me in the game and how cool it would be, and I would love to do it one day," McIlroy said.

"But for me to do that, I just have to go out and try to play four good rounds of golf on this golf course. I've played a bunch of really good rounds on this golf course before, but just not four in a row."

McIlroy revealed his visit to Woods' home in late March was an eye-opener, in terms of learning how his friend and rival has approached competing over the years.

"In his family room he's got his trophy cabinet and it's his 15 major trophies. I said, 'That's really cool. Where are all the others?'," McIlroy said.

"He said, 'I don't know'. I go, 'What?'. He said, 'Yeah, my mom has some, and a few are in the office and a few are wherever'."

It struck McIlroy, as he was driving home from that visit, that the majors were the be-all and end-all for Woods.

"I'm just thinking to myself, how easy must that have felt for him if all he cared about were four weeks a year. The other stuff must have been like practice. So that's like a really cool perspective to have, right," McIlroy said.

"That's all I could think about on the way home. And I was glad he was OK, too."

McIlroy has been working with coach Pete Cowen on simplifying his technique, saying he is "just at the start of a journey here that I know will get me back to where I want to be".

Three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson is also taking part this week, the 50-year-old being a U.S. Open short of a Grand Slam himself.

His prospects of completing the full set look to be slim given he is not the force he once was, but Mickelson has the capacity to surprise and would love another Augusta challenge.

Many consider McIlroy's game to be well suited to The Masters, and Mickelson always knew his own skillset was perfect for the course.

"I never really doubted that I would end up winning this tournament," Mickelson said on Tuesday. "This is a course that is very well suited for the way I grew up playing, but that joy of winning it for the first time, finally breaking through, it's beyond belief."

Tiger Woods is "bummed" to be missing The Masters after his car crash in February, friend and practice partner Justin Thomas has revealed.

Five-time Augusta champion Woods will be watching from home this week rather than taking to the course he knows so well.

The golf great was involved in a single-vehicle incident six weeks ago that saw his car roll "several hundred feet".

Woods required surgery on serious leg injuries, while an officer from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said in the aftermath the 45-year-old was "very fortunate" to survive.

It was just the latest setback in a superstar career and means Woods is absent from The Masters for the fourth time in eight years, although he did win the tournament in 2019.

There had been appearances from Woods at each of the prior 19 editions of The Masters, while he was the last man to retain the green jacket with back-to-back triumphs in 2001 and 2002 and is one of only five to have celebrated a career Grand Slam, this week marking 20 years since his 'Tiger Slam'.

Woods posted on Twitter on Tuesday: "I'll miss running up @DJohnsonPGA's bill at the Champions Dinner tonight. It's still one of my favorite nights of the year."

Thomas, who regularly practises with Woods and Fred Couples ahead of the Augusta major, said at a news conference: "I went over and saw him a couple times last week and try to go over a couple times during the week whenever I'm home and see him.

"We texted Friday morning, and he said it's kind of starting to set in. He's bummed he's not here playing practice rounds with us, and we hate it, too.

"I'm very, very lucky that I somehow got thrown into that practice-round group with Tiger and Freddie the last four years or whatever it is, especially around this place.

"I just follow them around like puppy dogs. Wherever they go, that's where I go after it. If they hit chips from somewhere, I go hit chips from there.

"It's no coincidence they have been so successful here, but they are also just great guys to be around. I definitely miss that part."

Thomas added: "[Couples] didn't feel like getting up in the early cold weather this morning, so I made sure to give him some grief.

"I don't know if he would have bailed on me if Tiger was with me, but he did on me."

Couples posted on his own Twitter page: "Thinking of my guy @tigerwoods during this week @themasters. I'll miss you tonight at dinner. Not the same without you."

Thomas, who has improved his Masters finish every year since his 2016 debut and came fourth last year, has been grouped with Tony Finau and Louis Oosthuizen for a 13:48 EDT start on Thursday.

Couples will play with Francesco Molinari and amateur Charles Osborne, teeing off at 12:24 EDT.

An investigation into Tiger Woods' car crash in February has been concluded by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (LASD).

The golf superstar required surgery on serious leg injuries following a single-vehicle incident that saw his car roll "several hundred feet".

An officer from the LASD said in the aftermath that Woods was "very fortunate" to survive, although the 15-time major champion has since returned home.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva offered an update on Wednesday as he revealed the LASD had finished its investigation.

However, the department cannot yet release details of the incident.

"A cause has been determined," Villanueva said in a live Instagram video. "Our investigation has concluded.

"However, we have reached out to Tiger Woods and his personnel. There are some privacy issues on releasing information on the investigation, so we're going to ask them if they'll waive the privacy.

"Then we'll be able to do a full release on all the information on the accident.

"We have all the contents of the black box, we've got everything. It's signed, sealed and delivered. However, we can't release it without the permission of the people involved in the collision."

A short statement on the LASD's Twitter page followed to clarify why a report had not yet been released.

"The release of accident reports is governed under California Vehicle Code Section 20012," it said.

"When we are able, we intend to release the information learned during the traffic collision investigation involving @TigerWoods."

Fifteen-time major winner Tiger Woods has revealed he has left hospital and returned home as he recovers from last month's car crash which left him with multiple leg injuries.

The 45-year-old former world number one went on social media to provide an update on his health following the single-car rollover in California on February 23.

Woods suffered a comminuted open fracture in his right leg, requiring emergency surgery, while he also had additional injuries to his foot and ankle.

"Happy to report that I am back home and continuing my recovery," Woods tweeted. "I am so grateful for the outpouring of support and encouragement that I have received over the past few weeks.

"Thank you to the incredible surgeons, doctors, nurses and staff at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. You have all taken such great care of me and I cannot thank you enough.

"I will be recovering at home and working on getting stronger every day."

Rory McIlroy hopes Tiger Woods can return home next week and revealed the 15-time major winner had given him "heat" from his hospital bed after he failed to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Woods has been recovering at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after he suffered serious injuries to both of his legs in a car crash last month.

The American's car rolled several hundred feet in a single-vehicle accident that he was considered to be very fortunate to survive.

Woods underwent a long surgical procedure on his lower right leg and ankle, but is on the mend and McIlroy says the legendary 45-year-old may be discharged from hospital in the near future.

The former world number one told The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon: "Hopefully we see him back out here on Tour soon.

"I've spoken to him a little bit. He's doing better, and I think all the guys have reached out to him.

"Hopefully, if things go well over the next week or so, he might be able to get home and start his recovery at home, which will be great for him to see his kids, see his family.

"I just think all of us are wishing him a speedy recovery at this point."

McIlroy says Woods had been in touch with him before and after the Northern Irishman missed an opportunity to secure victory at Bay Hill on Sunday, with Bryson DeChambeau crowned champion.

The five-time major champion, who found the water twice at the sixth hole in his final round, said: "He texted me some words of encouragement before the final round at Bay Hill on Sunday, and things didn't quite go to plan.

"But Tiger was the first one to text me afterwards and be like 'What's going on here?' So even from the hospital bed he's still giving me some heat!"

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