AUGUSTA, United States (AFP) – Tiger Woods’s odds of winning the Masters have shrunk with every birdie of his 2018 comeback campaign, but in reality the 42-year-old superstar faces a daunting task in his bid to add a 15th major title to his resume a decade after his last Grand Slam victory.
Since his 2008 US Open triumph at Torrey Pines took his tally of major titles to 14, injuries and well-publicized personal woes have taken a toll, raising doubts that he would ever surpass Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major titles.
Woods won Masters titles in 1997, 2001, 2002 and 2005, but his last top-10 finish at Augusta National was a tie for fourth in 2013.
Woods says he missed the “rush” of competing for a Green Jacket as back trouble sidelined him in 2016 and 2017.
Now playing without pain after spinal fusion surgery last April, Woods is relishing a return to the storied Georgia course.
“Just being out there on those greens, hitting putts and being creative, there’s no other golf course like it in the world and there’s no other golf tournament like it,” Woods said. “It’s a players’ heaven.”
Woods won his first Masters title in 1997 in historic style. His 18-under total put him 12 shots ahead of runner-up Tom Kite and made him the youngest player and first African-American to win the Masters.
Another dominant win in 2001 gave Woods the “Tiger Slam” – making him the first golfer to hold all four of golf’s major titles simultaneously.
He successfully defended his Masters title in 2002, and in 2005 won in dramatic style – his birdie chip at the 16th on Sunday clinging to the lip before dropping to help him force a playoff in which he beat Chris DiMarco.
In 2010, Woods chose the Masters for his return to action five months after humiliating revelations of infidelity that eventually spelled the end of his marriage.
After scandal and injury saw his ranking tumble, Woods returned to number one in 2013, but another major title has eluded him and the longer the gap between Grand Slams the less likely another appears.