Woods didn't win the Masters in 2000, the only major championship he didn't achieve. He was done in by a three-hole stretch the first day, when he was five over par. Tiger made a game showing out of it the last three days, but he was just two shots too many behind.
The victor last year was Vijay Singh, and he says he isn't going to give up his title easily. Singh is also at the top of his game, having finished not worse than fourth in his last four starts. He was second in the AT&T, tied for third in the Genuity Championship, tied for fourth at Bay Hill and was second in The Players Championship.
Watch Vijay's interview after the 2000 Masters
Woods, of course, has won his last two events - Bay Hill and The Players. His game is peaking for the Masters, just as he said it would. He really put it in overdrive when the Tour reached Florida.
'Once we leave the West Coast, I think a lot of the guys kind of start thinking about what they need to do to get ready for Augusta,' he said. 'I don't think I'm any different.
'I've been thinking about some of the shots I might need. Am I hitting it well? If I am, keep it that way. If I'm not, I try and improve on it. More than anything, going into Augusta, I think it's always beneficial that you're playing well, that you feel like your practices are well, your tournament performances are good going in there, you've put yourself in contention to win.'
Woods massacred the field when he first played the Masters as a professional in 1997. He won the tournament by a runaway 12 strokes that year. Since then, he has had troubles. It came last year in the first round when he shot a 75 with a double-bogey at the par-4 10th and a triple-bogey at the par-3 12th. He then had five bogeys in Friday's round of 72 to fall nine shots out of the lead at the halfway point.
Woods couldn't quite dig himself out of that hole. Scores of 68 and 69 on the weekend got him to within two of Singh. A missed three-footer for birdie on the short par-5 13th Sunday doomed his comeback hopes. The back nine, as a matter of fact, gave him trouble all week. He was four-over-par over that stretch, the holes that ultimately killed him.
Of course, Woods killed fields in the next two majors. He won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by 15 strokes and the British Open by eight. Bob May took him into overtime at the PGA Championship, but ultimately he won that one, too. He already has won three in a row, leaving him to consider whether the Masters would give him the Grand Slam.
'Do I hold all four (if he wins the Masters)?' asked Woods rhetorically. 'Then there's the answer to your question.'
Arnold Palmer, who coined the phrase 'Grand Slam,' answers an emphatic 'no' when asked if someone wins the four but it isn't in the same calendar year. Woods shrugs and acknowledges there are differences of thought. 'Hey, everybody has an opinion,' he says. He says, however, that, 'By far, all of them in one year is harder to do.'
Tiger, Arnie and others comment on 'What is the Grand Slam?'
Singh putted well at Augusta last year, but he says he is better this year. He has gone to a longer putter that he holds against his stomach.
'I really think the way I am putting right now is the best I have ever putted,' he says. 'Each week, I get better and better. I'm lining up my putts better and I'm feeling more comfortable.
'At the start, I was fortunate to go to it, because I was putting so bad the last year at Memorial (in May) that I've fiddled around with my putting. And I'm glad I did.
'I've always been a good putter; I've never been a great putter, but I think I am becoming a very good putter now. I've had a lot of confidence with my putting, but I just wasn't finding the hole or reading the greens as good as I thought I should. Looking back at the top guys, all of the good putters, it's not how good they strike the ball. It's how well they read the greens. If you have the best stroke and the best speed and you don't read the greens well, you are not going to make a putt.
'So I think my eyes are changing. I had an operation on my eyes, and changing my style of putting, lining up the ball differently, I think they are all a combination of me putting well.'
Woods says getting ready for the Masters - or any major championship - is all a matter of how to get ready.
'It just comes from trial and error,' he said. 'And it's learning how to get your mind and body ready for that one week. You've got to do it four times, and it becomes a little more difficult because you are playing under difficult conditions. I think it is just through experience and learning your body and learning what you need to do to have everything come together.'
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Full Coverage of the 2001 Masters Tournament