Fire builds for quick Tiger return

I could tell the fire is building back up in his belly. I suspect Tiger is going to be back fairly quickly and I'm looking forward to it," Billy Payne, club chairman at Augusta National said after Tiger Woods participated in the Champions Dinner at the venue.

Tiger Woods has not given a timeline of his return to top-flight golf yet.   -  AP

Tiger Woods will miss the Masters for the second time in three seasons after back surgery, but indications are the 14-time major champion could make a quick return to competition. The 40-year-old former world number one was at Augusta National on Tuesday, but only for the Champions Dinner, where club chairman Billy Payne said Woods was optimistic about the prognosis for resuming his career.

"He looked good," Payne said. "I was delighted. He's encouraged. I could tell the fire is building back up in his belly. I suspect Tiger is going to be back fairly quickly and I'm looking forward to it."

Phil Mickelson, a five-time major winner and long-time Woods rival, said he heard similar musings that it might not be too much longer before Woods has a chance to add to his total of 79 PGA titles, three shy of Sam Snead's all-time record.

"I've heard from reports that he's going to be able to play this year, which is great. We would love him to be here," Mickelson said. "The tour misses him. The game misses him. We all appreciate what he's done for the game of golf over the years. We all miss him and want him back. He's a big part of the game even when he's not playing.

"Hopefully he'll get back to his winning ways. It was only a few years ago he won five times in a year, so it's not like he's that far off."

No hints

Woods, who won five times in 2013 including his most recent title at the World Golf Championships event in Akron, gave no hints of a timetable in a Tuesday update on his website.

"I'm doing better and making progress, but unfortunately, still not physically ready to play," Woods said. "I look forward to being out there again as soon as I can."

Woods did tweet about his meal, praising the Texas barbecue on offer from defending champion Jordan Spieth - "Unreal food. JordanSpieth did an amazing job. It was fun catching up with some old friends and telling stories. And sitting next to my man MO (Mark O'Meara)," Woods said.

Woods also found time to sit alongside six-time Masters winner Jack Nicklaus and fellow four-time Masters champion Arnold Palmer, tweeting, "Pretty cool that at dinner tonight 3 of us sitting next to each other have won a combined 14 green jackets."

Fantastic golf to watch

Woods won his first major title in 1997 at Augusta National, starting an overwhelming run that concluded with his most recent major victory at the 2008 US Open. "I don't know if we're going to see a 10-year stretch of golf like that in our lifetime," four-time major winner Rory McIlroy said.

Current world number one Jason Day of Australia said that he, Spieth and McIlroy are living legacies of the electrifying shotmaking and flamboyant style Woods brought to the sport.

"As a player, no, I don't like getting beat by Tiger all the time. I mean, it sucked," Day said. "But as a fan it was fantastic golf to watch. He did things that no one else could - hit shots around the greens, shots from way off the green, approaches. It was just amazing what he could do.

"Now you see the results of it because there's myself, Jordan, Rory, Rickie (Fowler), Hideki Matsuyama from Japan, Thomas Pieters from Belgium. There are numbers and numbers of guys that are young, because of what Tiger did back in the day, that got us into the game."

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