Tiger Woods is not planning on becoming a ceremonial golfer any time soon after declaring he “expects to contend” every time he tees it up at the Masters.
Woods has enjoyed almost 19 months as the reigning champion having claimed a remarkable 15th major title at Augusta National last April – a victory that continues to give him “chills” and memories which clearly still tug at his emotions.
Now approaching his 45th birthday at the end of this year, Woods admitted that tackling Augusta’s length is significantly more difficult than it was in his prime, but he believes experience is just as important an asset as he looks to edge one closer to Jack Nicklaus’ record major haul of 18.
“Do I expect to contend? Yes, I do,” said Woods, who is using the likes of Nicklaus, Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer as inspiration. “You look at Freddie and Bernhard, they are in their 60s and they seem to contend. Jack contended here when he was, what, 58?
“It can be done. This is a golf course in which having an understanding how to play and where to miss it and how to hit the shots around here, it helps. The golf course keeps getting longer, and it gets a little bit more difficult as I’ve gotten older and I don’t quite hit it as far.
“When I first came here, it was a lot of drivers and a lot of wedges. Now it’s a little bit different and I’m hitting longer clubs into the holes, but still understanding how to play it definitely helps.
“That’s one of the reasons why you see past champions, like I mentioned Freddie and Bernhard, to be able to contend so late in their careers, and hopefully I’ll be one of those guys.”
Woods is trying to emulate as much as possible from his build-up to his memorable win last year, repeating several of his returns while being wary of the importance of staying as fresh as he can.
“I was working on a few of the things that I was working on last year coming into the event, being able to hit a high draw,” he added. “My body is feeling better than I did last year, so it was a little bit easier to hit those shots.
“You know, hopefully this year, I’ll be as consistent as I was last year. You know, last year, I was able to hit a lot of really good iron shots and I putted great – I had a great feel of the greens.
“Today, I did a little bit of work on the greens, just like I did last year. I took Tuesday off and didn’t play, so I tried to get a feel for the greens, and they were a little bit slower than I had expected. But you know, with the rains coming up and the forecast, you just never know.
“That’s one of the neat things about trying to figure this tournament out is Wednesday to Thursday, this golf course changes a lot and what the committee does. Hopefully I get the same feel as I did last year and put it all together.”
Woods begins his defence alongside Open champion Shane Lowry and last year’s US Amateur winner Andy Ogletree, the trio starting out at the 10th at 7:55am on Thursday morning and the first time Woods has begun a round at the Masters on the back-nine.
“It’s never been done before,” said Woods, who was in the final group out from the first when a two-tee start was implemented on the final day due to the threat of storms last year. “I think when Jack finished in his last Masters, he had to tee off on 10 and finished coming up nine.
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“You know, this whole year has been very different for all of us. For us to be able to have this event, we weren’t looking like we were going to have this opportunity. The fact that we had an opportunity to be able to play; the fact that we are going off two tees, I think it’s irrelevant.
“The fact that we have the opportunity to be able to play and compete for the Masters again, is an awesome opportunity.”
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