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O'Meara not surprised by Tiger's return to No. 1

Mark O'Meara
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HUMBLE, Texas – Cell phones are a major no-no at Augusta National Golf Club, even for those who are playing the course.

Let’s hope the folks in green jackets take it easy on one Masters champion who used his phone to check up on another earlier this week.

“I was on the 12th green at Augusta National on Monday,” Mark O’Meara said when asked if he saw Tiger Woods’ win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. “You’ve got to be very careful, as we all know, at Augusta. I don't want Mr. Payne to be upset at me. I was back on the back of the green and pulled out my phone to see that he had won by two. I fired him a text. I said, ‘Awesome. Great No. 8 and No. 1.”

For years one of the staunchest supporters of the player he calls his “younger brother,” O’Meara has stuck to his defense that Woods would return to his winning ways. Now that he has, older bro is hardly surprised.

“He's obviously got a lot of pride and his desire seems to be back,” he said. “Winning breeds winning. He's accustomed to winning. When he wasn't winning, I don't think he probably enjoyed that too much. He's paid a heavy price from the standpoint when you live under that kind of intense expectations not only what he places on himself but what everybody places on him, me, all of you, everyone. We expect him to be up there. When he's not, you know, we're like, ‘What's wrong?’

“You wonder how long an individual, any individual, can live under that kind of pressure, whether it's the President of the United States or anybody else. You see when people are under immense expectations and pressure, it starts to take a toll on someone mentally, physically, all these things. He seemed to stay in shape and he seems to be gung-ho and wouldn't surprise me to see him go play well [in the Masters] just because of his vast knowledge of Augusta and his familiarity with the golf course and winning.”

Though he came short of predicting a fifth green jacket for Woods, not surprisingly O’Meara is keen on his chances two weeks from now.

“Do I think Tiger will win every major this year or win the Masters? I'd be hard-pressed to bet against him,” he explained. “Do I think he's coming in with great form? Absolutely. He's got three wins out of five tournaments that he's played. The guys out here now all play so well that most of the guys that play now out here, they know him; they're kind of somewhat accustomed to being around him and playing with him. So the intimidation factor is not what it once was. It was good to have him back on top and playing well.”

O’Meara, who has lived in the Houston area for the past four years, is competing in this week’s Shell Houston Open on a sponsor’s exemption.