Jason Day reckons the sporting world is “chomping at the bit” to see if Tiger Woods can write one of golf’s greatest stories by claiming a fifth Masters win in his first major since undergoing spinal fusion surgery just under a year ago.
That was the former world No 1’s fourth back operation in the space of three years, but he’s heading into a first Augusta National appearance since 2015 as one of the leading contenders after finishing 12th, second and fifth in his last three starts on the PGA Tour.
“There’s going to be a buzz around this week with Tiger being on the grounds and it’s going to be exciting to see,” said Day, speaking as the 14-time major winner arrived to finalise his preparations for the season’s opening major.
“I think when it comes to Tiger and the Tiger-mania that comes with it, everyone wants to see him win and play the way he did before. I think a lot of people quickly forgot what he had accomplished in his career after he got injured and was out for a while.
“That’s just life. Everyone lives fast now. Everyone wants instant gratification. That’s just how the world works now. But now that he’s back and he looks kind of where he was before, or he potentially can be, I think everyone’s getting that taste back and saying, ‘oh, let’s go, let’s see what he can do’. I think everyone’s kind of chomping at the bit to see what he can accomplish.
“There’s a number of guys that are playing really nice. But I think everyone’s kind of solely focused on Tiger and what he’s going to do here and seeing if he can get to No 15. That’s fine with me.”
According to legendary coach Butch Harmon, who helped him claim the first eight of this victories, Woods winning this week would rank second only in Masters folklore to Jack Nicklaus securing his sixth Green Jacket at the age of 46 in 1986.
“I’m not surprised with the hype and the stuff that goes with it,” added Day of Tiger-mania. “He was huge back in ‘97 (when Woods won his first Masters) and he’s still huge now. We’re looking at a guy that was the most recognised athlete for a good chunk of years.
“He put golf on the map for a lot of young players. And you look at the college players that are coming up now - big, strong athletic people. They’re hitting it miles, and that’s that Tiger effect.”
While Harmon reckons it is too early in his comeback for Woods to returning to winning ways in a major - he last landed one in the 2008 US Open - three-time Masters champion Nick Faldo is tipping the 42-year-old to “threaten” this week.
“He has the potential,” the Englishman told PGA Tour.com. “His game is amazing. I think he’s ahead of schedule. He’s been in there competing for the last couple of events. That’s the most important thing, you’ve got to climb that ladder and scare yourself.”
Woods was in contention in his last outing in the Arnold Palmer Invitational before hitting his tee shot out of bounds at the 16th and coming up just short in his bid to a remarkable ninth victory in the Bay Hill event, which was won by Rory McIlroy.
“If he really can put a finger on why that one is happening (and) erase that...wow, he will definitely be in there,” added added. “How he’s found five more miles per hour in club head speed in his 40s after a fused back is unbelievable.”