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Master returns to his domain

By Associated Press | China Daily | Updated: 2013-04-07 14:11

 
Master returns to his domain

A red-hot Tiger Woods (right) will be fighting for his fifth Masters title this week, while a suddenly struggling Rory McIlroy will be looking to win his first. [Photo/Agencies]

Woods may have his best chance in years to win another green jacket, Associated Press reports.

Tiger Woods in a green jacket once felt like an annual celebration of spring, as regular as the azaleas bursting with color at Augusta National. Now it's more like a fading memory.

It has been eight years since Woods rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt to win the Masters in a playoff for his fourth green jacket. He appeared to be well on his way to living up to that audacious prediction of Jack Nicklaus, who played a practice round at Augusta with Woods - then a 19-year-old amateur - and Arnold Palmer. Nicklaus came away so impressed that he considered his six Masters and the four won by Palmer and said, "This kid should win more than that."

But the major Woods was supposed to dominate has become the major he can't seem to win.

"It's been one of those things where I've been close there so many times on that back nine on Sunday, and I just haven't won," Woods said. "I've been in the mix. Been on the periphery and played myself into the mix. I've been right there with just a few holes to go, and it just hasn't happened. Hopefully, this year it will be a different story."

This might be his best chance to end the drought - not only at the Masters, but in the majors. He last won one at the 2008 US Open.

Woods is healthy for the first time in years. He appears happy after a scandal that ruined his marriage and image, announcing a few weeks ago he's dating Olympic ski champion Lindsey Vonn. He is winning again at an alarming rate - six out of his last 20 on the US PGA Tour, including consecutive wins heading into the Masters. And he is back to No 1 in the world.

Now all Woods needs is a green jacket.

He has only worn the jacket for the Champions Dinner since last winning in 2005, and as defending champion at the trophy presentation a year later. Woods had six three-putts in 2006, twice missing eagle chances inside 15 feet on the back on Sunday when he finished three shots behind Phil Mickelson.

The losses kept piling up. Woods couldn't catch Zach Johnson in 2007, hurt by a bogey-bogey finish in consecutive rounds. A cold putter stopped him in 2009, and in 2011, he was tied for the lead going to the back nine on Sunday and played it even par.

"The style in which guys play nowadays, guys are long and aggressive, and it's not like Tiger back in '97 when he dominated people with his length," Graeme McDowell said. "He was playing a completely different golf course from everyone else. I think there are so many guys now who can decimate a golf course like that when it's playing benign."

One of those guys is Rory McIlroy, though golf's next big star hasn't looked like one lately.

McIlroy won the U.S. PGA Championship in August for his second major - more than Woods had at that age - and then became the first player to win back-to-back tournaments with Woods in the field during the FedEx Cup playoffs a month later. He closed out the year by capturing the money title on the US PGA and European Tours, and he was the undisputed best player in golf.

 

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