Tiger Woods has gotten to spend some extra time with his green jacket.
Maybe that's just what he needs to rekindle a spark in his magnificent game, to prove again he's not all washed up.
Nineteen months removed from that magical Sunday at Augusta National – and a quarter-century since he first played the Masters as an amateur – Woods looks very much like an aging golfer whose best days are behind him.
But this hallowed course has always been the place where he shines the brightest, no matter the personal tribulations, no matter the injuries, no matter the inevitable march of time.
Will the 44-year-old be able to muster those mystical forces one more time?
“Do I expect to contend? Yes, I do,” Woods said Tuesday, not hesitating in the least.
“This is a golf course in which having an understanding how to play and where to miss it and how to hit the shots around here, it helps.
“The golf course keeps getting longer. It gets a little bit more difficult as I've gotten older and I don't quite hit it as far. When I first came here, it was a lot of drivers and a lot of wedges. Now it's a little bit different and a little bit longer clubs into the holes, but still understanding how to play it definitely helps.”
“Do I expect to contend? Yes, I do.” – Tiger Woods
It certainly helped the last time he was here. Having battled through debilitating injuries that threatened to cut short his career, Woods pulled off an electrifying comeback in the final round to capture his fifth Masters title and 15th major championship.
"I thought that it was one of the greatest feats in the history of sports," three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson said.
"It was an incredible comeback knowing many of the challenges he has gone through over the last few years prior to the win."
That was way back in April 2019, nearly a full year before the coronavirus pandemic struck.
Usually a rite of spring, the Masters was pushed back all the way to November, where it will be played on an eerie, largely empty course – patrons are not allowed – with the leaves falling rather than the azaleas blooming.
"It's not how I wanted to retain the jacket for this long," Woods said.
"It's been incredible to have the jacket and to have it around the house and to share it with people, but to have it this long, it's not the way I wanted to have it. I wanted to earn it back in April."
He has one victory since his Masters triumph, the 82nd of his PGA Tour career to tie Sam Snead for the most ever.
Other than breaking the tie with Snead, the only things on his radar are a pair of Jack Nicklaus records: six Augusta National titles and 18 major championships.
- Paul Newberry, Associated Press