Excitement builds over Tiger’s return to Masters field


AUGUSTA, US: Anticipation built on Sunday (Monday in Manila) around Augusta National for Tiger Woods returning to the Masters, ticket scalpers already offering prized passes to the unfolding drama at the year’s first major golf tournament.

Players traveled Magnolia Lane to the clubhouse on the eve of Monday’s first official practice session for the 82nd Masters, where 14-time major winner Woods will try for a fifth green jacket after his fourth back operation.

“I’m just there to win,” Woods said in a posting on his website this week.

Tiger Woods AFP PHOTO

“I’ve been better with each week I’ve competed. A little more crisp. I’m starting to put the pieces together.”

Woods missed his third Masters in four years last year after spinal fusion surgery, but has contended in his past two starts, sharing fifth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and second at the Valspar Championship.

“It’s fantastic what we’re seeing of Tiger. He looks in control of his game,” said Britain’s Justin Rose, last year’s Masters runner-up.

Woods, who at a low point doubted he would ever play competitive golf again, has seen interest in his comeback tale at age 42 send resale prices for Masters badges soaring several thousand dollars above face value.

“I got a second chance on life,” Woods said. “I am a walking miracle.”

Woods hasn’t won a major since the 2008 US Open, hasn’t won a tournament since the 2013 WGC Bridgestone Invitational, hasn’t played in a major since missing the cut at the 2015 PGA Championship and last won the Masters in 2005.

“I’m just really looking forward to playing,” Woods said. “It’s the best-run tournament in the world. The golf course, the patrons, the entire atmosphere — it’s a golfers heaven.”

A streak of 12 rounds at par or better has shown Woods has regained his health. This week will tell if he has found the form that made him a global superstar.

“It’s a lot different than the first two comebacks. He wasn’t ready,” said Australia’s Jason Day. “He came back too soon. Now he’s hitting it longer than before.”

That’s part of the reason some oddsmakers have made Woods the tournament favorite.

“That’s kind of funny,” Woods said. “Six months ago the odds were I wasn’t even going to play.”


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