By Steve Keating
AUGUSTA, Ga. (Reuters) – It has been 11 years since Tiger Woods last won a major and 14 since he claimed a Green Jacket yet like Augusta National itself some things never seem to change as the 43 year-old again took his place in the Masters spotlight on Tuesday.
“If Tiger wins my goodness what’s that story going to be, it might make the morning papers — for the next three months,” six-time major winner Nick Faldo replied when asked what might be the Masters’ biggest storylines when play begins.
Since Woods made his Masters debut in 1995 until a rainy practice round on Tuesday, the American has been the main attraction at the year’s first major.
Even when Woods was not at Augusta National, missing the 2014, 2016 and 2017 tournaments due to injury, he was never out of the Masters conversation.
Without a major win since notching number 14 at the 2008 U.S. Open, Woods’s Masters drought stretches back even further to 2005 before either of his children, 11 year-old Sam and 10 year-old Charlie, were born.
For golf fans it is a dry spell that is hard to comprehend and for Woods one he admits he never saw coming.
“I would say that I wouldn’t have foreseen that, for sure,” said Woods. “After I won my 14th, I felt like I still had plenty more major championships that I could win, but unfortunately I just didn’t do it.
“Hopefully this year, I put myself there again, and hopefully I’ll get it done.”
As Thursday’s first round approaches Tiger-mania is picking up steam.
After successful back fusion surgery and a long tedious recovery Woods returned to the winner’s circle last year, picking up his 80th career title with a stunning victory at the Tour Championship.
Perhaps an even more promising sign of a major breakthrough came at last year’s British Open and PGA Championship where he contended in both events.
“It proved to me that I could win again,” Woods said of his Tour Championship victory. “You know, I was close a couple of times.
“I just need to clean up my rounds and maybe need to get a break here or there.”
Nowhere does the Tiger mystique hang over an event more than at the Masters.
Augusta National has long been a happy place for Woods who along with his four wins has been runner-up twice with a third and three fourth-place finishes.
“I know that I can play this golf course,” he said. “I’ve had some success here. This is unlike any other golf tournament. The golf course is special.
“The tournament does an incredible job of creating a special atmosphere but it’s also the patrons and how you can tell birdie roars and eagle roars. It’s neat to hear.
“I’ve felt it and it’s exciting to be part of and hopefully I can be part of it come Sunday night.”
(Editing by Ken Ferris)