It’s been 19 months since Tiger Woods claimed his fifth victory at The Masters, but the feeling of last year’s final round still hasn’t left him.With no patrons in attendance this year, circumstances will be different than the memorable scenes when Woods was greeted by the roaring support of the crowd on the final hole in 2019 before celebrating the win by embracing his family.”I’m still getting chills just thinking about it,” he told reporters Tuesday.”Coming up 18, and knowing that all I have to do is just two putt that little 15-footer and to see my family there and my mom and my kids and all of the people that helped support me or were there for me in the tough times.”And I was walking up there trying not to lose it, and still saying, hey, I’ve still got to two putt this.”Then I walked off the back of the green, to see Charlie there, just opened up our arms — it meant a lot to me and still does. It just reminded me so much of me and my dad, and to come full circle like that, it stills get me a little teary.”
Woods, who landed his 15th major title at Augusta last year, hosted the traditional Champions Dinner on Tuesday — sushi with tempura shrimp and spicy tuna, steak and chicken fajitas and a trio of desserts.Not quite the cheeseburgers, fries and milkshakes he chose for his first Champions Dinner as a 21-year-old.
This year’s Masters, the final men’s major of the year, has been moved from its usual April start date due to the pandemic, and Woods enters the tournament struggling to find form this year amid a disrupted calendar.”It’s been gearing up for the major championships and trying to understand what we have to deal with this year with Covid and trying to be safe,” he said.”I was hesitant to come back and start playing, and that’s why I waited as long as I did and came back at Memorial (in July). From there, I haven’t put all the pieces together, and hopefully that will be this week.”He added that he will find it difficult without the boost from the crowd this time around, 25 years since he made his first Masters appearance.
“We all miss the energy of the crowds,” said Woods. “This year is going to be very different. It’s going to be stark in what we see, our sights into the greens, the energy that you hear from different roars, from different parts of the golf course.”It’s one that none of us have ever experienced. So we’re all going to go through it together at the same time and it’s going to be a very different experience, and hopefully one that I can figure it out and be able to replicate what I did last year.”Woods tees off with 2019 Open champion Shane Lowry and US Amateur champion Andy Ogletree at 7:55 a.m. local time on Thursday.Pre-tournament favorite Bryson DeChambeau will play alongside world No. 2 Jon Rahm, while Rory McIlroy, who once again bids to complete a career grand slam at Augusta, is with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.Woods reserved praise for US Open champion DeChambeau, who has shaken up golf this year by driving huge distances having piled on muscle in the gym.”He’s put in the time. He’s put in the work,” said Woods.”What he’s done in the gym has been incredible and what he’s done on the range and what he’s done with his entire team to be able to optimize that one club and transform his game and the ability to hit the ball as far as he has and in as short a span as he has — it’s never been done before.”