Woods heads to Masters believing he can win again

Woods heads to Masters believing he can win again

AUGUSTA, Georgia - Reuters
Woods heads to Masters believing he can win again

Tiger Woods starts the Masters campaign high on his long-sought victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational tournament at Bay Hill. AP photo

It is spring time in the United States and the azaleas at Augusta National are ready to bloom. So is Tiger Woods.

After two and a half years of torment, the former world number one finally has a spring back in his step. He has ironed out most of the kinks in his golf game and now the mind games have started.

Last week, Woods won the Arnold Palmer Invitational to capture his first PGA Tour title since 2009. He led by just one stroke heading into the final round but finished five in front.

It was like old times for the most dominant player of his generation and the huge galleries that have winced and groaned during his struggles roared with excitement.

For the golfing faithful that have waited patiently for Woods to add to his tally of 14 majors, it was manna from heaven, and it sent an ominous message to his rivals.

More importantly, it helped restore his faith in his own ability. If self-belief and confidence count for anything at the Masters, then Woods’s long wait for a fifth green jacket may soon be over.

“I understand how to play Augusta National,” he said. “It’s just a matter of executing the game plan.”
He has every reason to feel good about his chances at the April 5-8 Masters.

In 1997, Woods confirmed his arrival as the hottest golfer of his generation and captured his first major with a 12-stroke win at Augusta to become the youngest Masters winner at 21 years, three months and 14 days. His lifelong dream of overtaking Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 majors was coming into focus when his world came crashing down in 2009. In 2010, when he returned to the game following the sordid revelations of his private life that led to the breakdown of his marriage, Woods was a shadow of his former self.

But 2012 has been a different story and most of his problems have gone. The 36-year-old has regained his length off the tee and is striking his irons as clean and accurately as ever.

“I’m excited about the things that we’ve been working on and to see it come together week in and week out,” he said. “I still have got some work to do, but I’m excited about the things that we have accomplished.”