A return for Tiger, but not the Eisenhower Tree
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) Tiger Woods felt right at home at Augusta National, a golf course he has been playing since 1995. He said he is fascinated that the course keeps making subtle changes, and yet it looks as though it hasn't been touched.
There was one obvious change. He was just a year late in noticing because he didn't play last year.
The Eisenhower Tree is no longer at No. 17, felled by an ice storm last year. Woods had back surgery a week before the Masters and had not been back since he played a pair of practice rounds last week.
''I didn't realize 17 was straight ahead,'' Woods said. ''I always thought it was a little bit of a dogleg left. It's eye-opening to see it's just dead straight. That was very, very shocking to me to see it like that.''
The loblolly pine was about 210 yards off the left of the 17th fairway, meaning players either had to hit it over the 65-foot tree or hit a right-to-left tee shot to shape the ball around it. That's what made it feel like a dogleg left to Woods.
''I loved it the way it was,'' Woods said. ''That tree, I've hit it too many times, trust me. I've had my issues on that hole with that tree. But I thought it was a fantastic hole. It's iconic, that tree, and I don't think you can ever, ever replace it.''
One of those bad memories was in 2011 in the third round when he had to squat to play a shot from under the Eisenhower Tree. His left foot got caught in the pine straw as the momentum of the swing carried him backward. Woods suffered a slight injury to his left Achilles' tendon and left knee and missed his next start. He returned at The Players Championship, withdrew after nine holes and didn't play again for more than two months.
BUBBA'S MENU: Bubba Watson plans a repeat - if not as the Masters champion, then at least what he serves at the Champions Dinner on Tuesday night.
Watson has been keeping it a secret ever since he won last year for the second time, but he finally gave and it was somewhat of a letdown. He said he would be serving the same meal he did as defending champion in 2013.
That would be Caesar salad, chicken breasts, green beans, mashed potatoes, corn and macaroni and cheese.
''It's the same meal because it's from my mom - home-cooked meal,'' he said. ''And that's why I do it.''
SPECTATOR TO FAVORITE: Henrik Stenson has played in the Masters nine times without much success. He has three rounds in the 80s. He has only one round in the 60s (just barely - a 69). And he has yet to record a finish higher than a tie for 14th.
He attributed that to not being in great form, not hitting his irons to the right spot on the greens, poor putting, a ''combination of those things.''
''And any other thoughts, greatly appreciated,'' he said with his dry delivery.
Stenson didn't even have much luck as a spectator. That's right - the world's No. 2 player first came to the Masters as a fan.
His wife, Emma, was playing at South Carolina and arranged for tickets to a practice round on Monday in 1999. He was watching Jose Maria Olazabal, the 1994 champion, in the short-game area of the old practice range.
''He was nipping every ball so perfectly and playing great bunker shots and everything,'' Stenson said. ''I said that to someone, `I think he's going to have a good week,' and he ended up winning.''
Stenson wasn't a big winner, though. He meant to place a bet on the Spaniard and never got around to it.
''It was different. It was harder to place bets back then,'' Stenson said. ''I actually had to set my alarm and call my mom in Sweden to go to the bookie, and I ended up forgetting. So yeah, it's something that still haunts me.''
NOT THAT YOUNG: Tiger Woods was talking about the next generation of players when he mentioned that he won his first Masters in 1997 when ''Jordan was still in diapers.'' That would be Jordan Spieth, the 21-year-old from Texas who now is No. 4 in the world.
Spieth would have been 3. He was asked to confirm that he was still in diapers.
''I just came out of diapers a couple of years ago,'' Spieth said with a laugh. ''Let's see, I was 3, almost 4. So I don't know. Are kids still in diapers at 3?''
HAPPY FANS: Patrick Reed is known for having a bit of a prickly attitude at times on the golf course. But he managed to make a few fans happy Tuesday during a practice round at the Masters.
Playing alone, Reed hit a drive into the right rough on No. 10, then reloaded and hit one down the center. When his caddie picked up the first ball and tossed it back to Reed, a group of fans who had gathered around the ball groaned
''We wanted you to play this one,'' one said.
Reed threw the ball back into the rough, then waited for the green to clear to hit an iron shot that came up short.
Then he walked away, not a word said.
THE SOUND OF TIGER: Tiger Woods showed up at Augusta National with earbuds dangling around his neck. When he set up to start working on his short game, he plugged them in and turned up the music.
What was he listening to?
''Hip hop,'' Wood said quickly.
That led to one reporter asking was he using the music to help find a rhythm in his swing to help with his chipping. That apparently was a little too deep.
''I wanted to just rock out,'' Woods said. ''That's what I practice in at home, and so having an opportunity to do that here, you see a lot of guys do it.''
Woods said he has been listening to music on the golf course since he was a kid. The technology, however, has changed.
''You remember the old cassette tapes?'' he said. ''I used to make my own cassette tapes, and then they had the Disc Man. They didn't have a holder for the waist, so I took one of the cassette holders and took that off and epoxied it to the Disc Man and listened to my discs as I practiced.
''Times have changed, but still practicing for hours on end, it's nice to have a little bit of tunes.''