Tiger ready for his new start
AUGUSTA, Ga. — Another day at Augusta National brought Tiger Woods closer to the very reason he came to the Masters.
He turned his head from side to side so he could make eye contact with fans as he walked off the green. He looked more at ease as he tried to make good on his pledge to be a better person.
But as much as Woods talks about repairing his image from a sex scandal, he ultimately will be judged by the number on his scorecard.
"Why do you think he's here?" said Jack Nicklaus, whose 18 majors remains the benchmark Woods is chasing. "I don't think he's here for his health or anything. He's here to play golf. That's what he is. He's a very good golfer. It's the first major of the year. He's taking large steps to get his life back in order, and he wants to play golf.
"He's excited about wanting to play, and I think that's great for him. And I think that's great for the game."
Nicklaus always geared his game for the majors. Woods followed that script, until it took a shocking turn.
"He is probably not as sharp as he will be a month from now," Nicklaus said. "But he's here. And him not sharp is still pretty good."
Each day brings Woods closer to tomorrow's start of the Masters, where he commands more attention than usual.
Even a routine practice round with old friend Mark O'Meara turned surreal when Woods crouched on the 10th green and peered into his cell phone. It looked ominous. Only three weeks ago, a porn star who claims to have had a three-year affair with Woods released on her Web site what she said were salacious text messages from Woods.
Turns out he was using it to videotape O'Meara.
"He was helping me with my putting," he said. "I had a loop in my putting stroke. He wanted to film my putting stroke."
The audience will get even larger tomorrow. Woods will be in the penultimate group for the second straight year, joined by K.J. Choi and Matt Kuchar. It fits perfectly into ESPN's live television coverage that starts at 10 a.m. (HST).
Raymond Floyd announced yesterday that he will no longer play the Masters, making last year's appearance — his 44th — his final one.
Floyd had played in every Masters since 1965. He won in 1976 and was runner-up three times.
Floyd, who also said he's "probably retired" from tournament golf, is the latest in a line of past champions who have decided to stop playing the Masters in recent years, including Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player.