Good morning from The Masters: Tiger teeing off

Maybe it was a tough winter, and nothing melts frigid memories like the sight of azaleas, dogwoods and Rae's Creek. Does the world not remember him draining putts down the stretch at the British Open past year?

A MA firefighter is trading in his axe this week for a set of golf clubs and the luscious green fairways of Augusta National. His return, coupled with the prestige of the Masters, will mean even bigger returns for the game of golf. In the case of sports fans, the dawn of the new season is marked by the prospect of late night viewing of golf's most captivating Major Tournament.

This year, former United States Amateur champion and long-time August National competition chairman Fred Ridley took over from Billy Payne as the Chairman of Augusta National Golf club and the Masters Tournament.

Tiger Woods and caddie Joe Lacava walk to the 15th green. Three-time champion Phil Mickelson has a realistic opportunity for another Green Jacket, as well, after breaking a almost five-year winless streak with a WGC-Mexico Championship a month ago.

"Obviously I was playing very well, and it was very disappointing not to be able to play", Johnson said. "So let's just kind of slow down". Woods has logged 20 rounds at Augusta since 2010 and has finished with par or better on the second hole in each one, with a scoring average of 4.68.

Amusing thing, it looked like the Masters would be the first major championship of McIlroy's career. "We know we're going to have to play well in order to win, and it's going to be quite a challenge". And hopefully, I end up on top. "It took me a while to get over it, but I knew if I looked at the big picture it would serve me well in the long run".

Tiger Woods was in the spotlight in his first Masters appearance in three years on Thursday, but it was playing partner Marc Leishman who topped the leaderboard through nine holes at Augusta National.

Tuesday's practice round was only a snapshot, and it received far more attention because of the stage at Augusta National and the two leading characters.

"It was pretty awesome", Couples said. Justin Rose lost in a play-off to Sergio Garcia previous year and he will be keen to get revenge.

While Woods searches for his fifth Masters win and his first since 2005, the tension surrounding this comeback is palpable. "How he's found five more miles per hour in club-head speed in his 40s after a fused back is unbelievable".

The ABT crowd - Anybody But Tiger - is just as hooked on watching him again but against him regaining that perch.

Eventual Masters champion has come out of final Sunday pairing 22 out of the past 27 years.

At this year's tournament, the headliner is Woods, who has missed three of the past four Masters, including the past two, because of serious back problems.

Alexis Carras, an 18-year-old student from MI, was also following Woods on her first visit to Augusta National. Watson won last week's WGC Matchplay Championship to add to his earlier victory this year at the Genesis Open.

Dustin Johnson is the No. 1-ranked player in the world for a reason.

While Woods has not won a major since 2008 and is now ranked 103rd in the world, Tiger Tracker was crystal clear when asked if another golfer might warrant a similar "Tracker" account, simply replying: "Let me know when they get 14 majors". Rahm won two weeks later to move closer to No. 1 in the world.

Struggling to fulfill his undoubted potential, Garcia spoke of how he couldn't play to his best if he felt sub-par in his personal life. Justin Thomas won the Honda Classic.

Tiger Woods certainly has the momentum heading into Augusta, but he falls short of some of these bench marks.

McIlroy is seeking a Masters victory to complete a career Grand Slam after winning the US Open (2011), the Open (2014) and the PGA Championship (2012 and 2014).

  • Joey Payne