The Masters: Ian Woosnam back at Augusta for 32nd time, just 15 months after back surgery
"I want to walk around 18 holes, or 36 holes, and enjoy it. Just to try and play the course without being in any pain really, because I've been in pain for the last 20 years playing around here really."
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 05/04/21 11:30pm
Ian Woosnam is back at Augusta National ready to play in the Masters for the 32nd time, although his main target this year is to enjoy at least 36 holes free of pain.
Woosnam was unable to make it to the tournament in November as he was still recovering from a back operation he underwent 15 months ago, his decision to go under the knife prompted by the fear of never being able to compete in a professional golf tournament again.
The 1991 Masters champion has not played any competitive golf since October 2019, but he feels his back surgery has given him a new lease of life and he is looking forward to testing it out on the most testing of layouts.
"I've come off the course thinking I'm not going to play again, but I've always said if I could do something, I'd have another go," said the Welshman, who is now 63 and has not made the halfway cut at Augusta since 2007.
"So I decided to have a back operation 15 months ago, and with the pandemic being around and everything, I've managed to recover pretty good. I'm just looking forward to getting out there and enjoying two more rounds. And hopefully if it goes well, I can maybe come back for a few more years.
"I want to walk around 18 holes, or 36 holes, and enjoy it. Just to try and play the course without being in any pain really, because I've been in pain for the last 20 years playing around here really. I haven't played in a tournament for 18 months, so it's not a bad place to start, is it?
"I'm going to be a little nervous. It's all about if I start playing alright and get a bit of confidence. Of course I'll be looking to try and make the cut, I never like to say I'm not. I like to try and have a little bit of a goal, but first and truly it's about playing a round and enjoying it and being back."
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Woosnam had his surgery in Cleveland before heading to Barbados to recuperate, although he actually started practising again around a month after his operation before he was forced to fly back home to the UK when the coronavirus pandemic began to take its grip worldwide.
"I started hitting balls pretty well about three, four weeks after it," he said. "But I was in Barbados, and I had to fly back to the UK because of the Covid and everything, and I didn't really finish off my treatment properly, so I had to do it over the internet, and finish my treatment that way.
"With having that time off with the pandemic, it gave me time to heal and take time off and try and get myself reasonably into some sort of shape anyway."
Woosnam, who is celebrating the 30th anniversary of his Masters win this week, also conceded he was no longer able to reach the huge bunkers on the 18th fairway that he famously cleared en route to a winning par which edged out Jose Maria Olazabal and Tom Watson.
"I can't even reach those bunkers, let alone clear them," he said. "We were just talking where I was driving the ball in 1991. Going down nine, I drove it on the actual walkway and I just hit a sand-iron in.
"And then on 18 I hit it over the bunkers. I used to hit the ball such a long way. I still hit the ball pretty long, but these guys hit it miles these days."