Tiger Woods admits he no longer “needs” to win the Masters but anyone questioning his desire for a fifth green jacket should think again.
Woods has not won a major since the 2008 US Open and last tasted victory at Augusta National in 2005, but off-course problems have given the former world No 1 a different perspective.
The 43-year-old’s marriage collapsed after revelations of numerous infidelities and the prescription drugs Woods relied upon to cope with various injuries eventually led to his arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence in May 2017.
Woods, who had undergone spinal fusion surgery a month earlier, later pleaded guilty to reckless driving and spent a year on probation as well as undertaking a diversion programme.
He returned to competitive golf in November that year and although he could finish only 32nd in last year’s Masters, he went on to finish sixth in the Open Championship and runner-up in the US PGA before winning his 80th PGA Tour title in the Tour Championship.
“It proved to me that I could win again,” Woods said of his victory in Atlanta. “I was close at the Open, I was making a run at the PGA, I just needed to clean up my rounds and maybe get a break here or there.
To win here in ‘01 to complete all four in a row, that’s never been done. So I don’t know how many more chances I’m ever going to get to do that again.Tiger Woods
“When I look back on that week I led from day one and that’s not easy to do. From the struggles I’ve had the last few years, to lead from day one and end up winning wire to wire made it that much more special.”
Asked about his desire to win at Augusta National, Woods smiled widely as he added: “I don’t really need to win again. I really want to.
“There were a couple of events over the course of my career, major championship-wise, I needed to win. One, don’t blow the lead I had in ’97, because of what happened the previous year.
“Greg (Norman) lost a six-shot lead. I didn’t want to lose a nine-shot lead, so I was able to win that one.
“And then to win here in ’01 to complete all four in a row, that’s never been done. So I don’t know how many more chances I’m ever going to get to do that again.”
Francesco Molinari, meanwhile, may view himself as “no spring chicken” but the Open champion hopes to use a few old tricks to contend for a second major title this week.
Molinari’s best finish at Augusta is a tie for 19th in 2012 but the Italian comes into the event on the back of a stellar 12 months.
The 36-year-old has won four times since last year’s Masters, including The Open at Carnoustie, while he also became the first European player to earn a perfect 5-0 record in the Ryder Cup in Paris.
“What has let me down in the past here is on and around the greens,” Molinari said.
“It’s a very tough test because of the speed and undulations, so I hope to show the progress I’ve made in the last few months.
“It’s a course most guys need to play a few times to learn a few tricks. There’s been a lot of work going on in the last few years and sometimes it doesn’t pay off straight away.”