Hopeful Tiger still feels chills from epic Masters win

Augusta (United States) (AFP) –


Tiger Woods, still feeling the thrill of last year's Masters victory to complete an epic comeback, says he can contend again this week thanks to his knowledge of Augusta National.

Former world number one Woods, a 15-time major champion who turns 45 next month, seeks a sixth green jacket to match the all-time record of Jack Nicklaus and a record 83rd US PGA victory to break the mark he shares with Sam Snead.

"Do I expect to contend? Yes I do," Woods said. "It can be done. Having an understanding where to miss it and how to hit the shots around here, it helps.

"It gets a little more difficult as I've gotten older and I don't quite hit it as far.

"You see past champions... able to contend so late in their careers and hopefully I'll be able to be one of those guys."

Woods' vivid memories of Augusta include his victory last year, feeling the electric atmosphere of the crowd and hugging his children the way he embraced his dad after his first Masters win in 1997.

"The same embrace, 22 years apart, pretty good bookends," Woods said Tuesday. "I still get chills just thinking about that.

"It meant a lot to me and still does. It just reminded me so much of my dad and to come full circle like that, it still gets me a little teary."

Woods has been able to keep his jacket away from Augusta longer than usual because Covid-19 postponed the Masters from April to November that also means no spectators attending.

"It has been incredible to have the jacket around the house," Woods said. "But this is not the way I want to have it."

Woods fed off the emotions of the crowd last year to rally for the victory, his first major title won after trailing before the last round.

"They helped me win, the support that I had," Woods said. "The energy that was around the property was electric that day. We'll miss the crowds. This year is going to be very different.

"Hopefully I can figure it out and duplicate last year."

Since then, Woods has struggled with his surgically repaired back and consistency, unable to assemble four competitive rounds since winning the 2019 Zozo Championship in Japan some 13 months ago.

"Last year, I was able to hit a lot of iron shots and putted well," Woods said. "I hope I get the same feel as I had last year and put it all together."

After last year's magic, rivals know better than to bet against Woods at Augusta National.

"You just need to be playing OK if you know the course," third-ranked Justin Thomas said. "And no one knows that better than Tiger.

"He takes this event so seriously. He knows this place so well and he knows that he has a big advantage over half the field before even teeing it up."