Tiger mania takes hold of Augusta! Returning hero Woods treats 60,000 fans – including thousands from Britain – to a golf clinic as the 15-time Major winner steps up preparations for the Masters at the historic course
- About 60,000 people watched Tiger Woods play a practice round in Augusta
- For the first time since 2019, fans were allowed to attend Monday’s practice round
- The return coincided with the return of all Augusta customers
Tiger Woods is no stranger to enthusiastic applause in these parts, but that often doesn’t extend to his mere appearance in the chipping zone. Or the practice putting green. Or practice it.
The return of Tiger, along with the return of all of Augusta’s customers, always seemed like the perfect combination and it proved to be on a golden afternoon ahead of the 86th Masters.
Every one of his walks from one part of the practice facility to another was greeted as if he had just made a 20-foot putt on the 18th for a 67. It’s fair to say customers are happy to see him back. .
Tiger Woods chatted with 1992 Masters champion Fred Couples during a round on Monday
On Sunday, Woods hit just 33 practice balls before moving to a fast nine. This time it was a real training session, lasting nearly 45 minutes, and focused heavily on honing his prodigious short-game skills.
What a clinic he set up. Every chip pulled into the book from a tight lie was played with perfect technique. The high float that spins on the second bounce and nestles next to the hole? To verify. The scudder that lifts like someone snagged it on a piece of string? To verify. Bunker hits of all shapes and sizes, bumps and runs as they call them here…all in sequence.
As for the long game, he was content with ten shots, straightening up a few times, as if to stretch his sorely tried back.
Tiger’s return coincided with the return of all Augusta customers
He then waited patiently for Justin Thomas to finish his warm-up, before the pair disappeared towards the first tee, where they were joined by 1992 champion Fred Couples.
Woods hit a perfect tee shot and moved fairly freely up the steep hill to his ball, but once there it was clear something had been taken away from him. He stopped and adjusted the surgical stocking under his white pants which protect his right leg, rebuilt following his horrific car accident 14 months ago.
If he decides to play on Thursday, after what amounts to an extended four-day fitness test, it clearly won’t be easy.
Go to any other golf tournament and Monday is usually a quiet affair. This is not the case at the Masters. For the first time since 2019 patrons were allowed to attend and at 9am the place was rammed. The green jackets never reveal the number of tickets issued, but it still feels like twice as many people attend the three days of practice as the event itself, where passes are issued to the same families each year and treated as inheritances.
Fans watched Woods walk up the first fairway with the legend stepping up his preparation
Around 60,000 is a fair estimate for each practice day, with the lucky recipients decided by ballot. They come from all over the world, including 4,000 from Great Britain. In this case, the majority waited patiently for three years for their reward, so it’s no wonder they were keen to make every hour count.
It wasn’t long before the large souvenir shop had queues stretching over 100 yards. What makes memorabilia so sought after is that it’s the only place they’re available, with the club dropping millions of dollars in online sales in the process. It also helps that the shirts and jerseys have arguably the best logo in American sports, unsullied by anything as crude as writing underneath.
The fact that Woods arrived late allowed the majority to shop, see this year’s decent display of flowers on the 13th hole, and then return to the practice area.
Approximately 60,000 people will attend each practice day, with lucky recipients determined by lottery
What a contrast to the night before, when he played the legendary inside half watched only by a select few. They came back delighted with the freedom with which he swung and the quality of his game.
He missed just one fairway and hit crisp iron shots that led to birdies on four holes, including the fateful 12th, the par three where everything turned in his favor in his miracle victory here in 2019.
Most of his time was spent playing shots on and around the greens – in other words, the shots that largely decide who ends up wearing the green jacket. Only once did he feel the urge to mulligan, after his 16th iron shot ended up in the bunker. He smiled broadly as the follow-up finished 18 inches from the hole.
Two days less, two more days. This isn’t the first time Tiger has pierced Augusta.