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Sports

Eyes on Tiger at Masters as pundits predict comeback

media Tiger Woods of the U.S. hits from a sand trap on the 10th green during the second day of practice for the 2018 Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, U.S. April 3, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Fourteen time major champion Tiger Woods whipped fans up into a frenzy in his first practice round at Augusta National Monday for the first time in five years. Golf’s fallen star is 10-1 favourite in some bookmaking lists to win the Masters.

The 14-time major champion played just nine holes on Monday to ease into the course ahead of the Masters which begins on Thursday.

And there were smiles and good wishes from fans and rivals alike.

"It's great for the game of golf," two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson said.

Woods hasn't won a title since 2013 but after failed comebacks, scandal and four back surgeries, the last a spinal fusion, he is a contender again at age 42.

"I got a second chance on life," Woods said on his website. "I am a walking miracle."

"As a friend you want him healthy, as a competitor you want him healthy, so yes there's nothing but great things that he's been able to do when healthy," Watson commented.

Fans flocked to Augusta to watch every shot of Woods for a hint of the magic that brought the former world number one, now ranked 103, to glory, on Monday as he practiced with Fred Couples and 2017 PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas.

For Watson, Wood's comeback will also inspire a new generation of fans.

"What he's been able to do for the game of golf on and off the course to help young people is going to help that many more people love the game of golf," he said.

In 1997 the then 21-year-old youngster rampaged to a 12-shot victory to claim his first Masters title and then took virtual ownership of the Green Jacket with three wins from 2001 to 2005.

Ten years on Tigermania is still alive and well reckons Australia's Jason Day, the 2015 PGA Championship winner.

"When it comes to Tiger and the Tigermania that comes with it, everyone wants to see him win and play the way he did before," he said.

Despite being out of the circuit for a while, Woods presence at Augusta National is still one that should make his fellow competitors nervous.

"He's going to threaten," three-time Masters champion Nick Faldo said. "He has the potential. His game is amazing. I think he's ahead of schedule."

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