Woods sighting pleases Masters patrons


Masters buzzing at his return

Associated Press

AUGUSTA, Ga.

The roar sounded like Sunday at Augusta National.

This was Monday afternoon, and it was so sudden and thunderous that it reached the clubhouse. It was loud enough to startle spectators who wondered what they had missed. They had a pretty good idea who it was.

Tiger Woods is back at the Masters.

Woods teed off with Justin Thomas and Fred Couples shortly before 3 p.m. when thousands of fans were making their way toward the exit. Thousands more crowded around the tee, lined the first fairway and followed him down the par-5 second hole. Some of them rushed over to the third hole to stake out a spot. Most of them surrounded the second green, and they were responsible for all the noise when Woods chipped in from behind the green.

About the only thing missing was a beam of light from the heavens.

Any talk about this being one of the most anticipated Masters in years starts with one player. Woods is at Augusta National for the first time since 2015, at least with his golf clubs, and he showed during the Florida swing of the PGA Tour that he is more than capable of winning a fifth green jacket.

“When Tiger walked onto the range today, you can tell there’s an anticipation and an excitement from the crowd to watch him compete again,” Justin Rose said.

Woods still hasn’t won a tournament in the five PGA Tour events he has played this year, but he has shot par or better in his last 10 rounds. He was runner-up by one shot at the Valspar Championship. He was one shot out of the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational until indecision sent his tee shot on the 16th hole out of bounds.

He hasn’t won the Masters since 2005, so long ago that only 18 players from then are in the field this year, and 15 of them are Masters champions.

“You hear guys talk about the early 2000s and that intimidation factor,” said Rickie Fowler, who made his major championship debut 10 years ago at Torrey Pines, where Woods won his 14th and last major. “The young guys in a way have heard about that. I think they’re getting to see some of that as far as his presence and him being out on the golf course and getting a glimpse of what he’s capable of. But I think we relish the opportunity to play against him and see him back to maybe close to where he was.”

Rory McIlroy is going for the career Grand Slam. It’s a long list of contenders, typical of a sport that is getting deeper with talent each year.

But when it comes to star power, collectively they don’t match the impact of Woods.

Jason Day believes it can only help him, McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and many others not get caught up in the hoopla and go about trying to get into contention. And if Woods happens to be there on Sunday, then no worries. Or maybe fewer worries.

“I think on my good day I’ve got a good chance of beating him. I honestly believe that,” Day said. “I think that there’s 10, 20 other guys out there that honestly believe they can beat Tiger as well at his good day. ... But there’s going to be a buzz around Augusta this week with Tiger being on the grounds, and it’s going to be exciting to see.”

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