Tiger gets Augusta buzzing

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Out of sight for two months while he painstakingly pieced together a broken golf game, Woods has not been out of mind as everyone from old foe Phil Mickelson to young gun Jordan Spieth cast a cautious eye towards his chances of adding a 15th major title to his collection on Sunday.

“In my book, he's arguably the best player who has ever played the game, so of course I'm going to have some interest to see what he's doing, especially after the break he's had,” said Swedish world number two Henrik Stenson.

“I heard someone say that he came out by the pitching green and pitched and holed out four times in a row from 35 yards yesterday, so his short game seems to be in pretty good shape.”

The greatest player of his generation and arguably of all time, Woods has tumbled from top spot in the world rankings to an alarming 111th over the past year with many experts convinced that he is suffering from the “chipping yips”.

Woods' short game in his two tournament starts this year has made him look more like a struggling amateur than one of golf's best but all indications are that the 39-year-old America has solved his chipping woes and is ready to contend this week.

“I do believe that the easiest fix is short game,” said Mickelson, a three-time Masters champion. “He's won numerous tournaments because of his short game. I just don't think it's a hard thing to get back.

“He played in front of me today and I saw him hit some shots and it looked impressive.”

Ready to compete in his 20th Masters, Woods possesses an undeniable comfort level around Augusta that is reflected by the four green jackets hanging in his closet.

Defending champion Bubba Watson expects that familiarity will provide a major boost for Woods on Thursday when first round play gets underway.

“This place brings it out in you,” said Watson. “The older champions they get excited around here. That's why everybody comes back. They want to be a part of this. It energizes them.

“I think that Tiger has taken enough time off to where he wants to be back and obviously he's pretty good around this place, so he is excited.

“It's the same with him. How would you not be excited to play Augusta National?” – Reuters

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