Woods shows flashes of old form on Masters practice day

Mon Apr 6, 2015 7:13pm EDT
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By Larry Fine

AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Tiger Woods strolled up to his second shot at the short par-four third hole and routinely hit a 35-yard pitch shot at the pin that finished about eight feet from the cup to cheers at Augusta National.

It was only a practice round with old friend Mark O'Meara on the Monday of Masters week, but it gave hope that the four-time winner of the green jacket might still be capable of major championship magic.

Routine for the Woods of old, but full of drama for those who have cringed at the startling loss of short-game control that sent the former world number one into a self-imposed exile since he withdrew after 11 holes at Torrey Pines on Feb. 5.

Woods made a late entrance on Monday, arriving at Augusta National after most of the practice round crowds had begun streaming out.

When word began circulating that the 14-times major winner was hitting balls on the practice range, many patrons turned back and returned to watch him.

Despite being the last pair to tee off on the front nine, a massive throng gathered at the first tee, and Woods was greeted with shouts of encouragement.

Woods, who has also been battling to get comfortable with a new swing, hit his opening shot at the par-four first way left to the eighth fairway but showed a flash of brilliance by sending his second over the trees to five feet and made birdie.

He reached the par-five second in two shots in another affirmative display, and at the 240-yard, par-three fourth hole threatened to make an ace before sinking the short putt for another birdie.   Continued...

Tiger Woods of the U.S. smiles as he walks up the fourth fairway during his practice round ahead of the 2015 Masters at the Augusta National Golf Course in Augusta, Georgia April 6, 2015.  REUTERS/Jim Young