AUGUSTA: Tiger Woods arrived at the Masters confident and fit on Sunday, playing a practice round over Augusta National’s front nine in advance of Thursday’s start to the first major of the year.
Woods, a four-time Masters champion and 14-time major winner, snapped a US PGA win drought of 2 1/2 years one week ago with a victory at Bay Hill. Now he hopes to end a major title drought dating to the 2008 US Open.
“Physically I’m fine,” Woods told the Masters website. “I feel great, no aches and pains.”
Woods, who also played Augusta National’s front nine the week before winning at Bay Hill, has won at least once in a season before each of his prior Masters’ triumphs. But Woods has not won a Masters title since 2005.
“The whole idea is to get your game together and have it going the way you want at the time you want,” Woods said. “There are four times a year you want to be playing your best and this is one of them.”
Woods, chasing the all-time record 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus, has shared fourth each of the past two years at the Masters, coming back in 2010 after a layoff over his infamous sex scandal. Alongside caddie Joe LaCava, Woods played on Sunday with pal Mark O’Meara and Vern Cooley, a surgeon who had operated on Woods’ leg, in a relaxed morning round under sunny skies amid towering pine trees.
Woods, 36, practiced putting at locations where he expects pins to be placed during the tournament and worked on chipping from areas just off the green, seeing how he could make the ball spin and stop on the famed undulating greens at Augusta.
Oddsmakers liked what they saw from Woods at Bay Hill, edging Woods into a favored role just ahead of reigning US Open champion Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, the prodigy who led after each of the first three rounds last year.