WASHINGTON (AFP) – Tiger Woods said on Tuesday he will follow the same preparation blueprint that led to an iconic Masters triumph as he prepares to defend his title in April at Augusta National.
Woods returned from spinal fusion surgery to win his first major title since 2008 at last year’s Masters, capturing his fifth green jacket and 15th career major title.
“To be the current Masters champion, it’s crazy that somehow it all came together for one magical week,” Woods said in a teleconference. “So many little things had to come together and they did. Last year was just an amazing week.”
The 44-year-old American superstar, who has matched Sam Snead’s all-time PGA Tour record of 82 titles, will return to Magnolia Lane in less than six weeks with eyes on a repeat bid.
“The plan is to prepare the same way. It worked last year,” Woods said. “I’ve got a blueprint of what I need to do. Hopefully I can have the same feelings.”
Oddsmakers have made top-ranked Rory McIlroy, lacking only a green jacket to complete a career Grand Slam, an early Masters favourite at 15-2 with Woods second at 10-1 and Spain’s world number two Jon Rahm at 11-1.
Woods, who has carefully managed his schedule to avoid overtaxing his back after multiple surgeries, has played at Torrey Pines and Riviera in 2020 after serving as player-captain in a United States (US) victory in Australia at last year’s Presidents Cup.
Woods is expected to play at Bay Hill and the Players Championship as the tour makes a Florida swing before the WGC Match Play in Texas, which comes two weeks before the Masters.
“Once we get to Florida it feels like the Masters is right around the corner, but I have been focussed on this since Australia,” Woods said.
“My prep has been like it usually is. I have been fortunate to have done this five times… I’ve had everything peak for one week. It’s hard to do.”
Last year Woods skipped playing a practice round two days before the start after rain slowed the course, saving his strength for the event.
“The best move I made that week was not to go out and play on that Tuesday,” Woods said. “I just stayed on the practice green. I practised chipping and putting. I tried not to get myself acclimated to that pace because I knew it was going to change. That was the best thing I could have done.”
Last year, Woods was also aided by a breakthrough and a low-key round at Augusta National on the eve of the first official practice day.
“After the Match Play, I figured something out where I could turn the ball over right to left. I could control it. That week I had amazing control of my iron shots,” Woods said.
“To come in there on that Sunday afternoon and have a nice quiet round… it set the tone for what I did the rest of the week.”
Woods became emotional at the 18th green last Sunday with victory in his grasp as he saw his children, who had watched him try and fail at the 2018 British Open.
They would have a memorable celebration just off the green – and a feud over the top prize on the flight home.
“To have them fight over the green jacket on the plane – ‘I want to wear it. No, I want to wear it’ – it was a moment I will never forget,” Woods said.
Woods could match Jack Nicklaus with a record sixth Masters victory and move within two of the all-time record 18 major wins held by Nicklaus, who along with Woods and England’s Nick Faldo are the only back-to-back winners at Augusta National.
Woods plans to offer chicken and steak fajitas with sushi and sashimi for his Champions Dinner in a repeat of his 2006 offerings.
He’s also pondering a repeat of the milkshakes he put on the menu in 1998, calling the image of Snead and Gene Sarazen enjoying the treats “one of my best memories”.
A quarter-century after his major debut as low amateur at the 1995 Masters, Woods returns to the course where he captured his first major crown in 1997 with new perspective.
“I’ve been part of the Masters since I was 19,” Woods said. “When I go back to Augusta National, the beauty and everything surrounding it, it’s like nothing else in our sport.
“I’ve been lucky to be a part of it and I will always be a part of it.”