The Masters gets underway Thursday, and club chairman Fred Ridley says he can't remember any previous one generating so much buzz. The main reason: Tiger Woods, who has returned to competition after a fourth back surgery and suddenly looks very much like a 14-time major champion capable of resuming his pursuit of the 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus. In practice rounds at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, Woods was producing Sunday-sounding roars by making eagles on the back nine. But he had one word for all this buzz: whoa. "I have four rounds to play," he said. "So let's just kind of slow down."
Woods has played nine-hole practice rounds for three days leading to the first round Thursday. Fred Couples has been at his side for all of them, and he didn't see much different from 10 years ago. "It was pretty awesome," Couples said, per the AP. Still, the competition is fierce at this year's tournament, with a dozen or more viable contenders in the mix. That list includes Woods' new practice-round partner—Phil Mickelson—who is coming off another World Golf Championship title, along with the No. 1 player in the world, Dustin Johnson. Rory McIlroy, meanwhile, could complete a career Grand Slam with a victory this weekend. It has been 13 years since Woods last won the Masters.