2022 Masters: Fred Couples Boldly Declares That Tiger Woods Will Contend

Most golf fans waited with bated breath to see whether Tiger Woods will indeed compete in the 2022 Masters. Fred Couples, who won the Green Jacket in 1992, doesn’t just think Woods will play. He believes Tiger can be in the mix on Sunday.

Before arriving at Augusta National on Sunday, Woods said his playing status would be a “game-time decision” before Round 1 on Thursday. But after a pair of impressive practice rounds, signs pointed to Woods being in the field when the festivities get underway. Indeed, Woods confirmed Tuesday (h/t ESPN) that he plans to compete.

Tiger is attempting to play his first competitive tournament since a devastating February 2021 car crash nearly cost him a leg, though he did play in the PNC Tournament with his son, Charlie, this past December. The Masters is an incredibly demanding tournament, and Augusta has plenty of undulations that could test Tiger’s body over the course of four days if he makes the cut.

Still, Couples is so enamored with Woods’ game that he believes the five-time Masters champion can contend for a sixth Green Jacket.

Tiger Woods has seemingly entered Masters mode

Woods previously refused to declare whether he planned to play in the Masters when he held a February press conference stating his intention to return to the PGA Tour. Now, he’s almost certainly in the field.

Tiger has hit balls and gotten out on the course in each of the last two days. Daniel Rapaport of Golf Digest noted that Woods’ ball speed is in a terrific place and that his vintage short game is in pristine form.

Being able to get off the tee and make magic around the greens are two enormous keys to winning at Augusta. Considering Tiger has appeared capable of launching with the big stick and shaping the ball from different angles, he seemingly has the makeup to post good scores at the 2022 Masters.

But it’s less about the state of Woods’ game and more about how his body holds up. Augusta is deceptively hilly. Playing 72 holes will almost assuredly take a toll and, in the long run, could impact Tiger’s performance.

However, golf legend Fred Couples thinks skepticism regarding Woods’ health is inconsequential. According to Couples, all Tiger needs to do is get through 72 holes, and he’ll have a shot.

Fred Couples was in awe of Tiger’s game

Given everything he’s been through in the past 14 months, Tiger Woods winning the 2022 Masters would be one of the most remarkable achievements in the history of golf. Couples probably wouldn’t be surprised.

The 1992 Masters champion teed it up with Woods at Augusta on Monday, and he spoke glowingly about Tiger’s performance. Couples said Woods was “bombing” the driver into fairways and called it an “impressive display.” That’s high praise from a man nicknamed “Boom Boom” for his own driving prowess.

That was only the beginning, however. Couples (h/t USA TODAY) proceeded to drop the following gem.

“To hit it like that, now it’s just the walking part. If he can walk around here in 72 holes, he’ll contend.”

–Fred Couples on Tiger Woods

Wow. That’s a pretty emphatic statement, especially since Couples acknowledged Woods’ difficult road to get to this point.

Now, Couples and Tiger are friends. They communicate on a regular basis. Perhaps this is just Couples’ way of supporting his pal.

On the other hand, this is Tiger Woods we’re talking about. He routinely finds a way to make memories, such as he did at the 2019 Masters. Can Big Cat really pull off the unthinkable?

Navigating a loaded Masters field

Tiger Woods and Fred Couples look on during a practice round for the Masters at Augusta National in April 2022
Tiger Woods and Fred Couples look on during a practice round prior to the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 04, 2022 | Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Tiger doesn’t just have to overcome physical limitations at Augusta. He’s also facing a loaded Masters field.

Jon Rahm enters the week as the betting favorite to win his first Green Jacket. Jordan Spieth isn’t in the best form, but the 2015 Masters champion knows Augusta like the back of his hand. The Texan has the second-best odds this week.

Then there’s a group including perennial major championship favorite Justin Thomas, two-time major champion Collin Morikawa, Players Championship winner Cameron Smith, and current world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler. Plus, the big-hitting group of Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, and Brooks Koepka is always lurking.

Reigning Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama has not played in a month, but he could still be motivated by the chance to become just the fourth back-to-back winner in history. That group includes Woods.

It’s a lot to ask of Woods to expect him to contend for the Green Jacket. Then again, there was a time when many were certain he’d never win another tournament.

Tiger has made the seemingly impossible happen time and again. Can he conjure up more indelible memories at Augusta? Fred Couples certainly thinks so.

RELATED: 2022 Masters Odds: 4 Golfers to Bet Right Now to Win the Green Jacket