Masters favouritism could hinder Woods, Thomas claims

Tiger Woods is being considered one of the favourites to challenge at the Masters next month, and Justin Thomas says that may hurt him.

Tiger Woods playing on the PGA Tour at Bay Hill   -  Getty Images

Justin Thomas is not surprised Tiger Woods is being considered one of the favourites to contend at the Masters, but has warned such sudden and lofty expectations are unlikely to benefit the fit-again superstar.

Woods appears to have finally shaken off serious long-term back problems to return to action and swiftly approach his physical best early this season, finishing 12th, tied second and tied fifth in his last three PGA Tour appearances.

He was challenging on the final day of the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday, only for an errant drive at 16 to finish up out of bounds and end his chance to win a tournament for the first time since the Bridgestone Invitational in 2013.

Nevertheless, the 14-time major champion is third favourite to win the opening major of the year at Augusta next month, behind world number one Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, who came out on top at Bay Hill last weekend. 

Speaking to the media ahead of this week's WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club, world number two Thomas suggested Woods deserves to be considered a legitimate threat.

"If he's playing, you know he's going to be up there as a favourite, especially in Augusta," Thomas said. 

"And with the form that he's shown lately, I didn't expect anything less, to be honest. 

"If he was showing any sort of form, not — trying to say this in the most non-gambling way — but [Las] Vegas just isn't going to let you get those kind of odds on Tiger Woods. 

"He's probably not a seven to one or whatever he may be in terms of if any other golfer in the world would do that.

"But he's Tiger Woods, and there is a point there for a while I remember seeing where he was like three to two to win tournaments or whatever. I mean it was just unbelievable." 

The most recent of Woods' majors came at the U.S. Open in 2008, before a succession of injury problems derailed his glittering career.

And while the 42-year-old undeniably has plenty of pedigree, Thomas knows his fellow American remains fallible to the doubts that affect every member of the field across four demanding days in the spring spotlight in Georgia. 

"He's played well... it will be cool to go there and [be] one of the favourites, although in reality it has no impact whatsoever on how you're going to play or what you're going to do," Thomas said.

"If anything, it may just add a little bit more pressure because more eyes and more spotlight is on you."

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