AUGUSTA, Ga. – Even as a group of smiling children savored every adult’s dream at Augusta National Golf Club, it was impossible to ignore the elephant in the room.
Adam Scott had just awarded the winner of the 14-15 girl’s division champion at the annual Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals, and the first question he was asked involved Tiger Woods.
“It’s great,” Scott said when asked about Woods’ Masters chances at the year’s first major. “No one really knew how he’d play, but expectations are back up.”
Woods missed the Masters the last two years because of injury, and began this season with plenty of unknowns about his game and his mental toughness, having not contended on the PGA Tour since 2015.
But the four-time Masters champion has impressed both with his play and his power, and begins this week the betting favorite over the likes of Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson following back-to-back top-5 finishes at the Valspar Championship and Arnold Palmer Invitational.
“With Tiger coming back better than just playing, he’s going to contend, and it’s amazing,” Nick Faldo said before a practice round on Sunday.
Faldo pointed out that this will be Woods’ 21st start at the Masters and that he has a level of institutional knowledge about the golf course that few, if any, enjoy.
“He brings his own aura and attention and is the one who is best equipped to play here,” Faldo said. “I have a feeling he’s going to be in it.”