April 04, 2018

Woods Prepares For Tomorrow

AUGUSTA, Ga. – The wait is over.

Chomping at the bit for nearly three years, Tiger Woods returns to famed Augusta National Golf Club as a competitor on Thursday in the 82nd Masters Tournament. He last played in 2015 and has missed three of the last four due to injury.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am to be back,” said Woods, a four-time winner of the coveted green jacket.

Woods went through final preparations on Wednesday, playing the front nine with 1992 champ Fred Couples and 2017 U.S. Mid-Amateur titlist Matt Parziale of Brockton, Massachusetts. The 30-year-old Parziale is a full-time firefighter, and his caddie/father, Vic, is a 32-year veteran of the department.

Matt was 9 when he watched the 21-year-old Woods capture the 1997 Masters on television by a record-setting 12 strokes. He has been a die-hard fan of Woods and the game ever since.

“He’s the reason I started playing,” Parziale said.

When Woods heard about his victory in the U.S. Mid-Amateur, he wrote Parizale a congratulatory letter. Parziale orchestrated a stirring comeback in the quarterfinals and that resonated with Woods, a three-time U.S. Junior Amateur and U.S. Amateur champion.

“It’s very admirable that you’re a firefighter, too,” wrote Woods. “The selfless and dangerous jobs of first responders are sometimes overlooked, but I want you to know that I’m grateful for all you do.”

Woods, 42, met Parziale about six weeks ago at the Medalist Club in South Florida, Tiger’s home course.

Joe LaCava, Woods’ caddie, stayed in contact with Parziale. On Wednesday, they teed it up.

“Matt played great today and we really had a lot of fun,” Woods said. “He’s a terrific kid and we had a really good time.”

It was a round Parziale won’t forget.

“He was engaged in the conversation,” he said of Woods. “He wanted to hear what my dad and I did.”

Woods was equally impressed.

“The fact that Matt puts his life on the line every day for others, and then does this, is amazing,” said Woods.

Woods will play the first two rounds with Marc Leishman and Tommy Fleetwood. They tee off Thursday at 10:42 a.m. ET and 1:27 p.m. ET on Friday.

The forecast Thursday calls for sunshine with a high temperature of 69 degrees and light winds. On Friday, it will be partly cloudy and 78 degrees with increasing wind. There is an 80 percent chance of afternoon showers and thunderstorms on Saturday, with a high of 74 degrees and winds of 15-20 miles per hour and gusts of 30-35. The Sunday outlook is for partly cloudy skies and a high of 67 degrees with 10-15 mile-per-hour winds.

ESPN will provide live coverage on Thursday and Friday from 3-7:30 p.m. ET, with a replay from 8-11 p.m. CBS will show highlights from 11:30-11:45 p.m. ET each night.

Woods played three nine-hole practice rounds this week and said his 2015 course yardage book was accurate, aside from slight changes to the 10th and 12th greens.

Although Woods has practice greens in his backyard in Florida that replicate the speed and contours of Augusta National, it’s not the same.

“That’s one of the things I’ve tried to get used to again, is seeing how much break I can play, being more creative and open minded about how much there is, what the dying speed is,” he said. “That’s something that I’m getting used to, and I’ll probably have a better feel by Wednesday and be ready to go Thursday.”

The hilly terrain has also been an adjustment.

“Mainly I just had to get used to the feel of playing off a lot of uneven lies, different shot shapes I’ve been playing, and in Florida hitting the ball low all the time,” said Woods. “On top of that, how to drop the ball in with the correct spin on these greens. Where to miss it to certain spots. I’ve done a lot of that prep at home just thinking about it, setting up scenarios in my head, where I need to be.”

On Thursday, his homework and preparation will be put to the test in one of the most anticipated Masters in history.

“I don’t think there is a one clear-cut favorite,” said Woods. “I think there are so many guys playing well at the same time. That’s what makes this year’s Masters so exciting. We know we’re going to have to play well in order to win, and it’s going to be quite a challenge.”