April 08, 2015

Tiger excited to make return at Masters

No one is more excited to play in the 79th Masters Tournament than Tiger Woods.

That was evident Tuesday during his pre-tournament press conference at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. 

“There is no other tournament like this,” said a trim and relaxed Woods. “To come back to a place where I have so many memories is special.”

A four-time winner of the green jacket, Tiger is making his 20th appearance. He missed last year’s tournament due to injury and is making only his third start on the PGA TOUR this year. He missed the cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and had to withdraw after 11 holes at the Farmers Insurance Open in early February because of stiffness in his lower back.

Woods also struggled with his short game, especially his chipping, but has spent endless hours practicing at home and is ready to test his game.

“I worked my [butt] off,” Tiger said. “Sun up until sun down. When the kids were asleep, I would still be doing it.”

Woods played two practice rounds at Augusta last week and committed to the tournament last Friday. He returned Monday and played nine holes with good friend Mark O’Meara, then played the 10th and 18th holes by himself, and played the front nine again Tuesday with O’Meara. By all accounts, he is striking the ball well and looks good for a guy who hasn’t competed in more than 60 days.

“I feel like my game is finally ready to compete at the highest level,” Tiger said. “I was stuck right between two release patterns. … More frustration than anything else, because I knew what I could do, and just wasn’t able to do it at the time. “

Woods has been listening to hip-hop music with earphones while he practices chipping. His playlist is 300-songs strong.

“I just wanted to rock out,” Tiger said. “That’s what I practice to at home.”

Woods has 11 top-five finishes at the Masters, twice finishing second.

“I’ve come close,” he said. “I just didn’t get it done.”

Speaking of his kids, his daughter Sam and son Charlie will caddie for him in the par-3 contest Wednesday. It marks the first time he has played the event since 2004.

“They’re excited, and I’m excited,” Tiger said.

Woods begins first-round play Thursday at 1:48 p.m. ET with Jamie Donaldson and Jimmy Walker.

As for his expectations this week, his mindset hasn’t changed.

“Competing is still the same,” Tiger said. “I’m trying to beat everybody out there. I prepare to win.”