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Woods battling more than just Augusta this week

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Tiger Woods is battling doubts.

Betting houses have dropped him as the Masters’ favorite this week.

His fall in the world rankings continues with his slide to No. 7.

Ian Poulter, the world’s No. 16 ranked player, went on record at Augusta National on Monday saying he doesn’t believe Woods will even finish among the top five at this week’s Masters.

The doubts, it should be noted, are coming from the outside, and Woods sounded determined not to let them penetrate his psyche.

Woods said Tuesday at his Masters’ news conference that he believes he’s ready to win.

Without a victory in almost 17 months, with the state of his confidence a question, Woods was asked point blank if he believes he can win the Masters.

“Hmm-hmmm,” he said with a nod and a smile.

Asked what elements of his game make him believe he’s ready to win, Woods didn’t hesitate.

Tiger Woods
Woods has finished no worse than T-6 at Augusta since he won in 2005. (Getty Images)

“Everything,” Woods said.

On the topic of setbacks he’s endured while undergoing a swing change, Woods was asked if golf has yet to see the best he has to offer.

“No,” Woods said. “I believe in myself. There’s nothing wrong with believing in myself.

“God, I hope you guys feel the same way about yourselves. That’s the whole idea, that you can always become better.”

Poulter told reporters Monday that you can never rule out Woods, but . . .

“I don’t think he’ll finish in the top five,” Poulter said. “I think, at the minute, there are a couple of inconsistent shots. The shots he was hitting at Doral, they were very inconsistent. You can't afford to hit shots like that round this golf course and get away with it.”

What does Woods think of Poulter’s observations?

“Well, Poulter is always right, isn’t he?” Woods said.

Woods was asked if he liked his chances of finishing in the top five better than Poulter’s chances.

“My whole idea is to try to win the golf tournament, and that’s what I’m trying to do,” Woods said. “My whole idea is to prepare. I’ve prepared all year to peak four times a year, and that has not changed. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

After his Shell Houston Open victory, Phil Mickelson was bumped to Masters' favorite, upgraded to 7-to-1 by Ladbrokes in the wake of his Shell Houston Open victory, with Woods at 10-to-1.

Woods has won four Masters titles, but none since 2005.

Still, Woods hasn’t exactly disappeared on the weekends at Augusta National. He’s finished T-3, T-2, 2, T-6 and T-4 since winning his last green jacket.

It was at last year’s Masters that Woods made his return to golf, his first public appearance in the wake of scandal over marital infidelities. He sat through his first post-scandal news conference at Augusta National, where he fielded numerous questions about his personal life. In Tuesday's news conference, Woods quickly steered the few personal questions back to golf.

Asked how far he thinks he’s progressed in his personal life over the last year, Woods said: “I’m just looking forward to this week. Last year was last year, and this year is this year. My main focus is to get ready and be prepared and come the first tee shot, be all cylinders go. As far as being a better person, I try to do that each and every day. That will always be the case.”


Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMell