THE MASTERS 2014

  10 - 13 April

Masters 2013: is Tiger Woods winning mind game?

Last Updated: 11/04/13 12:29pm

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Tiger Woods is trying to 'bully' his Masters rivals into early submission with an overt display of pre-tournament confidence, says Colin Montgomerie.

"We may well see him tee off and hit it straight over the trees and onto the ninth fairway and think 'what was all that about?' But I think there is a bit of psychology going on."
Colin Montgomerie

Four-time winner Woods is favourite to win the season's first major, which begins at Augusta today - a triumph that would cement his credentials as World No 1 after victories at last month's Cadillac Championship and Arnold Palmer Championship.

The resurgent 37-year-old says he is comfortable with his game and 'has a lot of good years ahead of him' as he attempts to win the four titles that would bring him level with Jack Nicklaus' total of 18 career majors.

And Montgomerie believes the strong air of positivity that Woods is exuding is all part of the grander plan.

"Is it false - is it all part of the psychology? Is he trying to convey to his playing opponents that he's back in the right place to win?" asked Montgomerie.

"There was a time through the late nineties and early 2000s where, if he played half decently, everyone else was playing for second place.

"He wants to get that type of 'bullying' feel back again - so that he can try to bully the field into submission before they even start.

"I think he's working well on it. Even his coach, Sean Foley, is out there saying he's never seen every area of his game in such great condition.

"We may well see him tee off and hit it straight over the trees and onto the ninth fairway and think 'what was all that about?' But I think there is a bit of psychology going on."

Contenders

Woods has not won a major since 2008 and last won at Augusta back in 2005, but such has been his return to form that he starts this Masters as favourite.

No European has earned a Green Jacket since Jose Maria Olazabal, while Sir Nick Faldo was the last Briton to do so back in 1996 and Montgomerie believes that it will be tough to derail the American challenge again this year.

"The bookmakers have got Rory as second favourite, then Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose and I think that's about the right top four.

"I would throw in Brandt Snedeker and Matt Kuchar, plus Louis Oosthuizen who lost in last year's play-off. There are a number of contenders if Tiger doesn't play to his best. If Tiger does, he wins. It's as simple as that.

"If Tiger does drive the ball well, his short game is that good and that tight now that he's back to putting properly, he should win.

"The Americans as a whole are showing form. They had 14 wins in a row on their own Tour before Martin Laird won the Texas Open, so they are buoyant and the European players have got to try and stop that.

"It's disappointing that no European has won the Masters since 1999 but we've got to put that behind us and get on with it."

Nervous

Montgomerie, who made the last of his 15 Masters appearances in 2007, says that each and every player in the field regardless of their odds will feel the same when they stand over their first tee shot on the par-four first hole, named 'Tea Olive'.

"I was always nervous, as a player," he admitted. "When I was supposed to do quite well here - when I was No 2 in the world you have nerves, but I think it's quite good to be nervous because it focuses the mind.

"Today's a big day because this isn't just a major, this is the Masters and I think it's the one to win now. If anyone was given the choice of winning one major, I think this is the one.

"There are nerves, believe me. This is the start of the major season - hitting your first tee shot is like hitting your first serve at Wimbledon. Will it go in the court or not?

"You want to hit the fairway here so you tend to guide it off the first tee even though you know that's not what you should do - you want to be nervous and commit to it. But everybody's nervous on that first tee.

"The Masters transcends golf because it is a unique event in sport. As a sports fan and a golfer, I'm excited to see how it all plays out over the next four days.

"It will be exciting, it will be dramatic - it always is. No-one is going to have a smooth run at it and I am looking forward to commentating on it."

The Masters on Sky Sports

Sky Sports will show all four days of the Masters (April 11-15) live and in high definition, while there will also be special 3D coverage for certain portions of the event. Check out our Augusta microsite here for more details, as well as news, features, blogs, player profiles, and videos.

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