Woods the focus at the Masters

2013-04-11 14:49
Tiger Woods (AFP)

Augusta - Tiger Woods was once again the full focus of attention at Augusta National Golf Club on Thursday as the 77th Masters got underway in perfect playing conditions.

The 37-year-old American has regained the world number one spot from Rory McIlroy after three wins in the four stroke-play events he has played this year. He says he is fit and healthy and is enjoying what he calls true "balance" in his life.

That combination of factors he has not enjoyed for the last few years and he is optimistic they will renew his march on golfing history with a 15th major title, nearly five years after his last win.

That would leave him just three majors short of achieving his life-long ambition of matching and eventually surpassing Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major titles, the last of which came here in 1986 at the age of 46.

Asked whether he would trade his newly-regained number one spot for another major, Woods left no doubt, saying: "Oh absolutely. Are you kidding me?"

A win on Sunday would also make it five Green Jackets for Woods - his last was in 2005 - just one behind the record six held by Nicklaus.

Woods has a comfortable mid-morning start in the company of England's Luke Donald and Ammerican Scott Piercy and with bad weather forecast to blow through later in the day that could prove to be providential.

Two other stories have dominated the buildup to the opening round - has Rory McIlroy finally got to grips with his new clubs and secondly how will 14-year-old Chinese prodigy Guan Tianlang fare on his Masters debut.

McIlroy finally showed a clear sign that he is emerging from his four-month slump with a closing 66 for second place at the Texas Open last week, but it remains to be seen whether he can safely negotiate four rounds over a course that has hurt him badly before.

He has already set his sights high, saying that anything less than a win on Sunday would be a disappointment in what he says is his favorite tournament of the year.

The Ulsterman, who celebrates his 24th birthday next month, already has two major title wins to his credit - both by eight strokes - at the 2011 US Open and at last year's PGA Championship.

A win at Augusta National would leave him needing only a British Open title to complete the full set of majors.

Astonishingly, McIlroy, one of the youngest players in the 93-strong field, is 10 years older than Guan, who will become the youngest player in Masters history when he sets off on Thursday.

Short off the tee, the slightly built Chinese boy is expected to struggle over the mighty 7 435-yard Georgia layout and it remains to be seen whether his superb short game can bail him out.

Of the 19 past champions playing, three-time winner Phil Mickelson looks the best bet after Woods, although he admits to feeling oddly nervous having broken with custom to stay idle the week before the tournament.

McIlroy apart, the quest to be the first European winner since Jose Maria Olazabal in 1999 continues with former world number ones Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer all looking for success.

Many feel though that world number three Justin Rose could be the best bet from Europe as he has a genuine liking and feeling for the particular demands of Augusta National.

Read more on:    masters  |  tiger woods  |  golf

What To Read Next


Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.
Live Video Streaming
Video Highlights
Sport Talk


Which of the FIVE South Africans competing at this year's Masters has the best chance of winning?

Love 2 Meet
English Premiership flutter

Take Sport24's "expert" tips at your peril...


With the Absa Premiership in full swing, who will be crowned champions when all is said and done? Will Mamelodi Sundowns defend their title? Or can Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates or Bidvest Wits mount a serious challenge? Stay glued to Sport24 to find out!

Latest blogs

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.