Tiger Woods declared himself ready to end a near seven-year wait for a 15th major victory, and what would surely rank amongst the most sensational of all, after taking to the course for 11 holes at Augusta National on Monday.
The 39-year-old, who wasn’t even certain to play in this, the 79th Masters until the end of last week, has been on a break from competitive golf since early February. At that point, when withdrawing during the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, Woods said he would not return until his toiling game was “tournament ready.” Since back surgery a year ago, Woods has been plagued by fitness and form woes.
A smiling, notably upbeat Woods partnered his old friend Mark O’Meara late on Monday afternoon, producing some fine play in front of huge galleries. O’Meara walked in after nine holes but Woods played the 10th before cutting back up the 18th. He is expected to re-appear at the Masters venue Tuesday, where he will also hold an eagerly-anticipated lunchtime media conference.
“I’m in a good place now,” Woods said. “I felt like I had to get my game into a spot where I could compete to win a golf tournament and it’s finally there.
“It has been a process. But I am on the good side now.
“I felt good. It was nice to get out here. The course was a little bit faster than we played it last week.”
On the specifics of his chipping, which has given Woods particular problems in recent times, he added: “Chipping was fine.
“I wanted to test out some wedges out here. That’s why I was chipping a little bit more and with a couple different bounce settings, because it’s a little bit different [here] than in Florida. We figured the right one out.”
O’Meara was similarly upbeat about Woods’s prospects. “He has a great passion,” said the former Open champion. “I’m a huge fan, friend. I care about him.
“It was good to be out there with him today. I saw some good signs. I thought I saw some good signs, to be honest with you, when he played his tournament in Orlando [in December], even though he didn’t play well.
“He’ll be nervous on Thursday, we all are. And under the gun it’s always a little bit different. But never underestimate Tiger Woods.”
Leading bookmakers remain unconvinced, with Woods generally priced at between 40 and 50/1 to prevail in Georgia.
This article was written by Ewan Murray at Augusta National, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 7th April 2015 02.13 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010