Tiger and The Masters - a match made in heaven

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/t/tigerwoods452x300.jpg' class='caption'> The unique career of Tiger Woods has been inextricably linked to the Masters Tournament over the last 15 years.

Updated: April 03, 2010 13:49 IST
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Augusta, Georgia:

The unique career of Tiger Woods has been inextricably linked to the Masters Tournament over the last 15 years.

It was here that he played in a Major for the first time in 1995 when, as a 19-year-old amateur, he finished in a tie for 41st place behind winner Ben Crenshaw.

Two years later, the Woods legend was well and truly launched when he won his first major title by a stunning 12 shots and wept tears of joy as he hugged his father by the 18th green.

More Green Jackets were to follow in 2001, 2002 and 2005 when his amazing chip in from the edge of the 16th green went down as one of the most sensational shots ever witnessed at Augusta National.

In the four years since then Woods has gone winless, but he has been in close contention each time and it is widely held to be just a matter of time before he wins for a fifth time and closes to within one of the record held by Jack Nicklaus.

Woods and Augusta National are the perfect match for each other.

The tournament is a must for golfing fans, but the glamorous presence of Woods turns it into a global attraction reaching a wider international audience.

Woods on the other hand craves the aura of tradition and history that the fabled course bestows as he chases down Nicklaus for ownership of the "greatest golfer of all time" mantle.

He has made it clear on numerous occasions that his two favourite courses are Augusta National and the Old Course at St Andrews, the birthplace of golf where he won the British Open in 2000 and 2005.

So it came as no huge surprise when Woods chose the Masters as the tournament that would mark his comeback to golf after a five-month hiatus which saw his life turned upside down.

"The Masters is where I won my first major and I view this tournament with great respect," he said when announcing his return to golf.

"The Major championships have always been a special focus in my career and, as a professional, I think Augusta is where I need to be, even though it has been a while since I last played."

It remains to be seen what kind of reaction Woods will get at The Masters where the fans are known as "patrons" and the ticketing is more closely-controlled than at any other tournament.

Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne has made it clear the club supported Woods' decision to his return even though his presence threatens to overshadow the tournament itself.

Arnold Palmer, meanwhile, believes that returning at Augusta was the best option open to Woods.

"Augusta is one place in the world that you can really have control," he said.

"They will control everything from the crowds to the situation that will be facing Tiger. He knows what he wants to do with his life and the way he's going to handle it and I guess we're going to give him that respect."

Still, Woods himself knows that although he is held in awe by golf fans, he is not automatically the most popular player out there.

Witness last year's final round when he and Phil Mickelson, playing together, lit up the galleries with a joint birdie blitz as they sought to reel in leaders Angel Cabrera and Kenny Perry.

The majority of fans were clearly behind the more chummy Mickelson, whose relationship with Woods over the years has never been close.

Woods himself has voiced some concerns over what kind of welcome he will get next week.

"I am a little nervous about that to be honest with you," he said. "It would be nice to hear a couple of claps here and there. But I also hope they clap for birdies."

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