Four-time champion Woods has not won a major title in 10 years and has gone three years without an appearance at one of golf’s prestigious events due to injury issues and personal problems.
But the reinvigorated 42-year-old is among the 87 competitors at Augusta National from Thursday until Sunday looking to claim the green jacket and will hope to move one step closer to Jack Nicklaus’ unrivalled record of 18 major triumphs.
This year’s field is as open as ever with 2015 winner Jordan Spieth, world No 1 Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy – looking for a maiden Masters victory to claim the career Grand Slam – among the many strong contenders.
But there is no mistaking who the focus is on. The returning Woods – who remains the youngest ever golfer to win the Masters at just 21 years old – has returned to form.
And the American insists he feels “fantastic” after battling back from a fourth back surgery last year.
“Al of a sudden, my body and speed and timing are back,” he said.
“For some reason, I don’t have any pain. I’m much tighter and I have to work on strength in different ways, but I’m hitting speeds I hit in my prime.
“We have worked on what body parts to get stronger, what body parts need to be more limber, and I feel fantastic.
“It’s just a matter of now going out there and competing and playing and posting numbers.”
One of his chief rivals, Spieth, admitted: “The addition of Tiger being healthy and playing well, no matter what else happened, was probably going to make it as anticipated as any going back five, six, seven years.
“But then Phil Mickelson winning recently, Rory winning recently, Bubba Watson winning recently, Justin Thomas playing well, Dustin Johnson playing well, I mean there’s just a lot of guys playing really good.”
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