Five of Tiger's memorable Masters appearance

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Five of Tiger's memorable Masters appearance

"I've been through some tough defeats over the years, but nothing like that", Woods said.

The fact that they were playing together was surprising enough.

Tigermania has blossomed along with the azaleas at Augusta National, but 14-time Major champion Tiger Woods is just one of the contenders at a Masters that promises to be a classic. To describe the Woods-Mickelson relationship as often "chilly" over the two decades that they have been golf's central characters would be doing a disservice to all things cold. It has served him well.

Woods, laughing, just looked on in disbelief.

"And that's what has happened".

The winning score has been higher than this in five of the last six years, and most of those tournaments played out in fairer conditions. "You have to have that belief".

To be frank, the list of "contenders" for this title is vast, with Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson all recording wins in 2018.

Even with Woods at 41 and Mickelson at 47, they are two of the favorites to contend this week. A green jacket is in his future, and I think it may be sooner rather than later. "If you watched him play today, there's not much of a back problem". Through multiple surgeries to his knees and back, Woods is showing some signs of the dominant player he once was, and could be again. Until Tuesday, it had been 20 years since Woods and Mickelson last played a practice round together before the Los Angeles Open at Valencia in 1998.

Don't worry if you can't be there in person, you will feel just as "at one with nature" watching on the BBC. That would mean an very bad lot to me, but I have to clear my head and come Thursday go out and play good golf, hit good shots, hole putts. We'll see how it holds with the weather that's coming in. "And he is playing well".

This year's U.S. Open will be held at Shinnecock Hills, the breathtaking course in the Hamptons, and the golf historians among us will remember that's where, 14 years ago, the greens rolled like marble and Retief Goosen issued Mickelson a hard defeat. Last week's tournament in Houston was very similar in design to Augusta, especially in the speed and formation of the greens.

Rory McIlroy (+12.51 Bookmaker): It was 2011 when Rory began his back nine on Sunday at Augusta and was bitten historically badly by the 10th hole. At his last two events, the Valspar Championship and Arnold Palmer Invitational, he finished joint-second and joint-fifth - performances which saw broadcast audiences rocket by 150 per cent, receiving almost 2.9m viewers on average.

"He's driving it really, really well", Couples said of Woods.

"I never come in here thinking I've served my time and this is my turn - because it's never your turn, " he said.

With temperatures on the cool side, the ball won't fly as much as usual so, in Casey, Pieters and Schwartzel, I'm happy to have three proven Augusta performers who can give it a good thump.

"When I got hurt and I had to take a different role on the teams, being assistant captain and really trying to help out on the side, how best I possibly could, Phil was great". For some reason it's come back.

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If there's any comfort for both players it lies in the history of the Masters, where Jack Nicklaus not only won at the age of 46 in 1986 but was contending on the final day a dozen years later at the age of 58.

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