Late start for Masters favorite Tiger

Woods is all smiles as he contemplates a fifth Masters green jacket.
Tiger Woods has been given a late start on Thursday as he begins his bid for a fifth Masters green jacket.

The world number one will go out in the penultimate group with Ryder Cup teammate Stewart Cink and Jeev Milkha Singh of India. With unpredictable weather forecast for the first major of the season, Woods may be handed the advantage of playing in anticipated warmer afternoon conditions. Cold and windy weather in the build-up to the tournament mean Woods will tee off for real without having played a full practice round at Augusta. He completed 11 holes on Sunday, five late on Monday, none on Tuesday with only nine planned for Wednesday when he will also skip the traditional eve-of-Masters par-three competition. “Hopefully the weather will be good enough where the scores will be a little bit lower,” he told Press Association. “The last two years, we have had terrible weather conditions and the weather hasn’t allowed us to shoot really low numbers. “The weather this week is going to be interesting again. We’ll see how it plays out.” Woods will be playing in the group directly behind defending Masters champion Trevor Immelman of South Africa, Adam Scott of Australia and teenage New Zealand amateur sensation Danny Lee. Immelman relegated Woods to second place last year before Tiger claimed his 14th major at the U.S. Open, playing through the pain barrier to beat Rocco Mediate in a playoff. Extensive knee surgery followed that triumph at Torrey Pines and after a nine- month break, Woods returned to win the third tournament of his comeback at Bay Hill two weeks ago.

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It has given him renewed confidence that he can complete a sweep of the majors this season. Well, I know I can do it. I’ve done it,” he said. “It’s hard for me to sit here and tell you that it can’t be done because I’ve done it before. Hopefully it will start this week for me.” The group behind Woods contains three of the most promising players in world golf, Ryder Cup hero Anthony Kim of the United States, Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and Ryo Ishikawa of Japan. World number two Phil Mickelson has a morning start, paired with flamboyant Colombian Camilo Villegas and U.S. veteran Jim Furyk. Mickelson, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour this season, can claim top spot in the rankings from Woods if he wins his fourth major and Woods finishes lower than fifth. The other big attraction for the galleries on Thursday will be the return to the Masters after seven years of Australian veteran Greg Norman, who qualified after his third place finish at the British Open last year. He partners 1985 winner Bernhard Langer of Germany and Lee Westwood of England. Padraig Harrington, who edged out Norman at Royal Birkdale and then took the PGA Championship in the absence of the recovering Woods, will begin his bid for a third straight major with a morning start with Mike Weir of Canada and Japan’s Ryuji Imada. Woods said that the Irishman faces a tough task as he bids for a “Paddy Slam.” “It’s not going to be easy — I remember trying to do it myself and it’s hard,” he said. ” “People don’t realize that just one gust of wind here or there could cost you the tournament on Thursday. Sometimes it does.”