Tiger expects to win

Matt Slocum/APTiger Woods grimaces as he tees off on the seventh hole during a practice round for the Masters golf tournament Tuesday in Augusta, Georgia. The tournament starts Thursday.

Matt Slocum

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Tiger Woods hit the ball so pure that he felt like a 14-time major champion. Before long, the swing left him and he resembled a guy who couldn’t break 80. He became so frustrated that he even threw a few clubs because of a game that had never been so maddening.

This wasn’t Woods playing in the Masters.

This was the past seven weeks when he was trying to decide if he should even show up.

“I worked my (tail) off,” Woods said Tuesday with a smile of satisfaction. “That’s the easiest way to kind of describe it. I worked hard. ... People would never understand how much work I put into it to come and do this again. But it was sunup to sundown, whenever I had free time. If the kids were asleep, I’d still be doing it. And then when they were in school, I’d still be doing it.

“So it was a lot of work.”

And he got his answer.

It took almost two months, followed by two practice rounds last week at Augusta National, before Woods decided to end his self-imposed break and return at the Masters.

Woods last played the Masters two years ago. He was No. 1 in the world and the overwhelming favorite. Now he is at No. 111 in the world, and Las Vegas bookies may have been generous in listing him at 40-1.

Golf’s biggest star always lights up Augusta National, and such was the case when he arrived Monday afternoon.

Only now, expectations have been replaced by sheer curiosity.

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