Excitement builds over Tiger's return to Masters field

To that end, McIlroy has taken the decision to cut back on the number of people in his normal-sized entourage for the season's opening major, which gets under way on Thursday.

Woods, who at a low point doubted he would ever play competitive golf again, has seen interest in his comeback tale at age 42 send resale prices for Masters badges soaring several thousand dollars above face value.

In his return to the PGA Tour this year after playing just two rounds in 2017, Woods has played five times for a total of 18 rounds. His 18-under total put him 12 shots ahead of runner-up Tom Kite and made him the youngest player and first African-American to win the Masters.

No wonder, therefore, this Masters looks perfectly scripted, with the eras set to collide as Tiger and an equally revitalised Phil Mickelson - seven green jackets between them - pit their wiles against the current elite.

"It feels like I won the Masters", said Teighan Chea, who rolled in a putt to clinch the Boys 7-9 division. But every year passes is a chance that has gotten away. I just: If somehow I do make it through to the weekend, I have to save energy.

"But I'm so anxious to see this play out next week ... to see if Tiger continues to play well, because he's in a very comfortable atmosphere at Augusta, and to see how the [players] react to Tiger". I think that's the kind of stuff that motivates him, and he's known to be a player who needs a little fire lit under his feet to get him hopping, and I think that's the kind of thing that will get him going. Back in the day, what came over with startling clarity was the relish Nicklaus felt in showing a new generation what the old guard failed to withstand. The Golden Bear does a neat turn as a Wise Old Owl and he talked to McIlroy about the sly temptations of Augusta: how it wants you to do more in situations when you must do less.

The Masters at Augusta National is a once in a lifetime experience, but it's also a lot easier than you think. It's about having a really smart gameplan and being disciplined and strict with yourself. "I'm trying to hit..."

Doing so, he feels, can help save crucial shots.

"So you've just got to roll with it". Watson's son, Caleb, is 6; at home earlier this week, Caleb watched replays of last year's DCP and had a question for his dad: If I do qualify, can you caddie? "Whoever plays the best will win".

How players can qualify to get into The Masters field. Having recently won the Arnold Palmer Invitational, McIlroy is riding serious momentum into his quest to complete the career grand slam. The rest of it is golf and golf swings, and we can all do that part. I don't really buy into the notion that it takes months to correct something that has worked in the past. The few floating around the marketplace can reach up to $10,000 in asking price, with the average price of four-day (Thursday-Sunday) badges already sold on StubHub now $5,752 - up 18 percent from a year ago. You have to go and do it yourself. But yeah, it's a place where I always love going to play.

He has since returned to full fitness and after watching last year's Masters from his couch, Johnson will surely be chomping at the bit for a chance to secure a second major title after his U.S. Open triumph in 2016.

  • Julie Sanders