Tiger Woods is looking forward to experiencing the “rush” of playing in the Masters for the first time since 2015, although he admits he still has plenty of work to do on his game.
Woods continues his comeback from spinal fusion surgery in this week’s Honda Classic at PGA National as he bids to bounce back from a disappointing performance at the Genesis Open.
The 42-year-old posted an encouraging top-25 finish in his first start of the year at Torrey Pines in January, when his short game was in fine order as he staged a series of superb recoveries from wayward drives.
But his accuracy off the tee was again poor at Riviera last week and, although he scrambled hard to salvage a one-over 72 on day one, he carded eight bogeys in the second round and missed the halfway cut by four shots.
Woods conceded he is “still learning” about what his body can and can’t cope with compared to his major-winning prime, but he remains confident of getting his game in order for the first major of the year at Augusta National, where he believes his experience of the layout will be a huge advantage over many in the field.
“We play at Augusta each and every year, and I just think that even though the golf course has changed dramatically from when I first started playing, I just understand where to miss the golf ball,” said Woods, who is inspired by the Masters consistency of himself and fellow veterans Phil Mickelson, Freddie Couples and Bernhard Langer.
“It helps that I’ve won there four times and I’ve won there under different layouts, basically. It really is a comfort when you look at what I’ve done, what Phil’s done, what Freddie has done every single year for the past hundred years. It’s the same with Bernhard.
“We just know where to miss it and how it play the golf course, where to be patient and when to really be aggressive. And don’t get me wrong when I say this, but it’s like another PGA Tour event. The only reason I say that is we play there each and every year, and that helps.
“When we play the same venue over and over again throughout the years, even though like Muirfield Village changed a lot over the last 15, 20 years, certain guys really do well there because they are comfortable with it and I think that’s how some of the players are at Augusta, myself included.”
Asked what he has missed most while being sidelined for the Masters over the last two years, Woods added: “I just miss the rush of competing for a Green Jacket. I’ve been doing it since I was 19 years old, and I’ve enjoyed every single challenge.
“But having to sit out on the sidelines, it’s not fun, especially since I know how to play the golf course and wish I could play but I was unfortunately physically debilitated, I could not compete. This year, it’s different, and I’m looking forward to there again.
“I’m looking forward to April, and trying to get my game solid for April, and I’ve got some work to do. But I’m starting to get that feeling again of playing tournament golf, where each and every shot counts. I’m looking at where I need to put the golf ball. I’m looking at forecasts.
“When you’re at home, who cares where the wind is coming from; who cares what the forecast is the next couple days. But now playing tournament golf, I’m starting to get into that flow again. I missed it, and it’s becoming familiar again.
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“I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m in catch-up mode. I’m just learning how to play tournament golf again, and unfortunately I’ve made some mistakes, like last week, and that’s just unfortunate that’s part of it.
“Obviously I’m fused, so it’s a little bit different, and I’m still learning what that feels like under the gun. Some of my shots, I like to play, they are not the same as they used to be. That part, I’m going to have to learn.
“But I would like to win golf tournaments leading into the Masters. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early in the year.”