The Masters 2012: Tiger Woods finds his Masters voice again

April 4th, 20126:08 am @

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“I think I have more shots than I did in 2000,” he said. “I guess I’m not
driving the ball as far, but I’m longer than I was in 2000. So it’s a
different game. The guys are much taller, much bigger, much more athletic.

“The game has become bigger and stronger. When I played back in 2000, the big
carry was 280 yards. That was a big carry over a corner. Now that has been
moved out to 315, 320. It’s just a different number now.”

In 2000 Woods was en route to the ‘Tiger Slam’ of four successive major
titles. So it sounded ominous to hear him say yesterday: “I feel like I’m
hitting the ball just as consistently day in, day out as I did then.”

Woods, who heads out for the opening round alongside Miguel Ángel Jiménez and
South Korea’s Sang-Moon Bae, could join Nicklaus in second on the all-time
US PGA win list with a 73rd overall crown, nine shy of Sam Snead’s record.
“I would like the green jacket more,” Woods said. “I know the 73 would be a
by-product of it, but I’m here for the green jacket.”

Trying to cut a more generous and responsible figure in the aftermath of his
sex scandal, Woods explained that he was learning at Augusta how to impart
advice to younger golfers — in much the same fashion as he absorbed secrets
to this course from a practice round with Nicklaus in 1995, as a 19-year-old
amateur.

“Jack that year told me about some of the putts he had hit over the years, and
the strategy on how to play certain flags,” Woods said.

As a relative elder statesman, he has been thrust here into the role of a
mentor, asked for advice by fellow competitors including Sean O’Hair, his
playing partner yesterday.

“I do help them,” Woods said. “We were talking about the course, what flag you
fire it at, and where you want to miss the flag. I help them as much as I
possibly can. It’s just the role of being here as a champion.

“Being here a number of years, you pass knowledge on. It’s not something that
we hold and are going to keep sacred. We pass it on from one generation to
the next.”

It was the misfortune of Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, two of the world’s top
three, to be eclipsed by the highly-anticipated duel between Woods and Rory
McIlroy. Donald, as world No 1, was affronted by the suggestion that there
was just one show in town, arguing: “It’s a little naive to say that they
are the only two with a chance to win around here.”

But he added that the hysteria could work to his advantage: “Tiger is always
the guy who pushes the needle the most, and Rory gets a lot of attention
now. For me, that’s probably good. I can just get on with things.”

Westwood, the world No 3 behind McIlroy, denied that Woods and McIlroy were
the favourites by a distance. “Rory has never won here, and Tiger has not
won here since 2005,” he said. “So it’s naive to think that it’s a two-horse
race. I think Phil Mickelson might have something to say about that. Luke
might. I might, too.”

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