McIlroy bids to tame Tiger

AUGUSTA, Georgia – Tiger Woods says there is no clear-cut favourite, Rory McIlroy hopes to grab the Green Jacket with both hands and Justin Thomas plans to wait for his rivals to self-destruct.

The 87-man field is primed, the azaleas have bloomed and the weather forecast is fine except possibly for Saturday’s third round for the U.S. Masters at Augusta National.

At 8:30am local time on Thursday (12:30 GMT) the first round will begin and the long build-up and endless speculation will be overtaken by something that actually matters – a score.

Several blockbuster storylines are possible, not least the quest of Woods to defy long odds and collect a fifth Masters title after an astonishingly successful spinal fusion less than a year ago.

“I feel fantastic,” said Woods, 42, who despite multiple back and knee surgeries has lost little of his dynamic swing speed and power.

Others may disagree, but Woods said victory on Sunday would not constitute the greatest comeback in golf, an honour he bestowed on Ben Hogan, who recovered from a near-fatal car crash to win three consecutive majors in 1953.

Woods predicts a tightly-packed leaderboard as many of the game’s top players peak at the right time.

A major obstacle blocking his route to a 15th major title is McIlroy, who is four great rounds from completing the career grand slam and joining Woods, Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Gene Sarazen and Gary Player in that super-elite club.

McIlroy is ready to seize the moment.

“Sometimes I feel I’ve given this course a little bit too much respect,” said the Northern Irishman, signalling an aggressive game plan.