By Daniel Shirley The Macon Telegraph
AUGUSTA, Ga. — Tiger Woods is tied for second all-time with four Masters titles behind Jack Nicklaus’ six wins at Augusta National Golf Club.
But Woods hasn’t won at Augusta since 2005 after winning his four green jackets in nine years from 1997 to 2005.
That’s not something Woods would have expected at the time of his last Masters win.
“I wouldn’t have been happy with that,” Woods said. “It does (feel like a long time ago). I put myself in the mix every year but last year, and that’s the misleading part, is that it’s not like I’ve been out of there with no chance of winning this championship. I’ve been there, and unfortunately just haven’t got it done. I’ve made runs to get myself in it. I’ve been there in the mix on the back nine, either not executed, not made enough putts or didn’t take care of the par 5s or whatever it may be.
“I’ve been in the mix … just I haven’t got it done.”
Woods has been in the hunt at the Masters since his most recent win, but he hasn’t been able to break his tie with Arnold Palmer for second place in Masters victories. Woods finished in the top five every from 2006 to 2011 except for one year, and that year he finished sixth.
Last year, Woods was 40th, which was the first time he has finished outside of the top 10 since 2004, and he has only had two worse finishes: 41st and 60th in 1995 and 1996 in his first two appearances.
“I feel comfortable with every aspect of my game,” Woods said. “I feel that I’ve improved, and I’ve gotten more consistent, and I think the wins show that. That’s something that I’m proud of so far this year, and hopefully I can continue it this week and the rest of the year.”
Woods has three wins already this year, and that has bumped him back to No. 1 in the world rankings. He won at Torrey Pines, Doral and Bay Hill, and he has won six of his past 20 PGA Tour starts.
“Well, I think first it was nice to get back to ranked No. 1,” Woods said. “There are a lot of players who try to get there and have never been able to do it, and I’ve been able to get there a few times throughout my career. And to battle the injuries that I’ve come through and to get through all that and to win enough golf tournaments and to win consistently enough to get to that point is something I’m very proud of.
“I’m excited that at this point in my career that I’ve been able to get healthy and to be able to give myself another chance.”
Still, Woods hasn’t won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open and has battled injuries and off-course problems since then.
“I wasn’t healthy enough,” Woods said of his drought in majors. “Couldn’t practice, couldn’t play, sat out major championships and just wasn’t able to do any of the sessions that I needed to do to improve. And I was making a swing change with Sean (Foley). So all that happened at the same time, so the No. 1 concern, No. 1 intent was, first of all, get healthy, get strong enough where I can practice. And once I started to be able to practice, things turned, and they turned quickly.
“Life is all about having a balance, and trying to find equilibrium and not getting things one way or the other, and I feel very balanced.”
He is counting on that balance to help him break through this week as he prepares for his 19th appearance in the Masters.
“Coming up on my 20th. I never would have foreseen that, when I first came here at 19 years old,” Woods said. “It was a bit overwhelming to play here and to be part of the Masters, to stay in the Crow’s Nest and accidentally run into the champion’s locker room and all those different things. Got to watch Gene Sarazen and Byron Nelson tee off on that first hole, Sam Snead. It was just incredible.
“To be a part of that, and to see how it’s changed over the years and to have won it, and I got lucky, I won my first professional event here. It was nice to be able to do that and know that I can come back here basically for my entire lifetime.”