Masters Diary: Woosnam returns to scene of his greatest triumph

Welshman sufficiently fit to line up with world’s best at Augusta after spinal surgery in 2020

 Ian Woosnam   on the sixth green during a practice round prior to the US Masters at Augusta National Golf Club  in Augusta, Georgia. Photograph:  Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Ian Woosnam on the sixth green during a practice round prior to the US Masters at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. Photograph: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

 

No question about who is the most lightly-raced golfer in the field this week, with Ian Woosnam – 30 years on from his only Major victory – playing competitively for the first time since October 2019.

Woosie underwent spinal surgery in January 2020.

“I didn’t fuse, [they] cut it out so my nerves would go through really, just to loosen it up a little bit,” explained the Welshman of the work done on the L3 and L4 intervertebral discs. He returns having missed out on last November’s tournament.

“I just want to enjoy it, just to try and play the course without being in any pain because I’ve been in pain for the last 20 years playing around here really,” said Woosnam of his return.

And he’s not looking beyond playing 36 holes, perhaps with good reason: Woosnam’s last time to survive the midway cut was in 2008. It was followed by 11 straight missed cuts up to missing out on last year’s tournament.

Mickelson’s astute signing
Phil Mickelson – who alternates between the PGA Tour and the Champions Tour since turning 50 – is on the hunt for a fourth green jacket . . . but he has also proven astute off the course in recruiting high-power people to join the board of the Mickelson Foundation, which raises charitable funds through hosting of the American Express tournament each year.

Condoleezza Rice, the former US secretary of state and one of the first women members of Augusta National, has joined Mickelson’s charitable foundation. “I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Condoleezza Rice for a number of years and her experience and leadership skills are rivalled only by her passion for sports,” said Lefty.

Watson’s simple tastes
Bubba Watson is making a 13th appearance this year and the two-time winner – 2012 and 2014 – is a pretty plain eater when it comes to his breakfast of choice at the august venue.

“I go two scrambled eggs, two pieces of bacon, two biscuits and hash browns and I always say ‘hash browns without all the fancy stuff in it’. I just want the potatoes; I don’t want all the onions and all that pretty stuff in there,” admitted Watson of his straightforward culinary requirements.

Rae’s Creek
What’s in a name? Rae’s Creek is the stream that flows at the back of the 11th green and runs in front of the 12th green and the 13th tee . . . it was named after John Rae, who died in 1789. It was Rae’s house that was the farthest up the Savannah River from Fort Augusta and it kept residents safe during Native Indian attacks when the fort was out of reach.

Quote-Unquote
“He’s 20 on Monday next week. I missed this tournament in 2001 to be at his birth so it’s like one big cycle. Seems like five minutes since he was born. Time flies!” - Lee Westwood on having his son, Sam, on his bag as caddie.

By the Numbers
58

The top 58 players from the world rankings are included in the field for this edition of the Masters, providing a strength of field of 809 (according to the official world rankings), making it the strongest in a decade. The odd man out in terms of getting an invitation? That’d be Russell Henley, ranked 59th in the world.

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