Tiger hitting vintage form
Tiger Woods is in vintage form, driving the ball further than ever and fully capable of winning next month's US Masters, according to two practice partners.
Woods announced last week he would make his comeback at the Masters from April 8-11 after an indefinite break from golf to try to save his marriage following revelations of repeated infidelities.
The world number one practised yesterday at Augusta National Golf Club, the site of next month's Masters.
American John Cook, who has 11 PGA Tour wins, said he had played rounds with Woods last Thursday and Friday and hit balls with him on Sunday.
Asked, after play at the Tavistock Cup at Isleworth where he would place Woods in the Masters on the basis of his form, Cook said: "From what I've seen of the last three days of ball striking, first.
"I don't see anyone that hits the ball like he does. We all know that that's not the whole battle, there are a lot of other issues there for him, but as far as ball-striking goes, if he takes that up there, it's vintage," he added.
"Vintage, I'd be hard pressed to see anyone beat him, that being said, you have to go up to the first green and mark your ball and you have to finish out and sign your name at the end of the day, that's a whole different deal. I'd be hard pressed to see anyone beat him but it will be his first rounds of golf for five months."
Arjun Atwal, who said he had played almost every day last week with Woods, said he was driving the ball even further than he had in his last competitive appearance in November.
"He is hitting it just fine and -- he is hitting it longer than before, there is no doubt and he feels like he is not totally ready but I have seen him win with what he has right now, plenty of times," Atwal said.
"I think he is ready but you know him, until he has every aspect right he isn't going to go out there."
Both Cook and Atwal said that Woods was in a relaxed mood on the course, in contrast to the tense figure who appeared in television interviews on Sunday.
"He's very mellow now, he's very chilled out, obviously whatever is going on at home I don't know, I don't even ask him, when he is out with us you can see that he is more at peace right now. I think he is doing all the right things," said Atwal.
Atwal, who said he could see Woods being in the top five at the Masters and winning if he putted well, said there was no indication of any rustiness in Woods' game.
"Nothing, nothing at all ... he's killing it, he's absolutely killing it," he said. "He thinks he isn't putting very well but we see for us mere mortals, it seems okay."
Britain's Ian Poulter, though, said it was pointless guessing what Woods could or could not do at Augusta.
"We are all speculating, I just hate this nonsense talk of speculation, we don't know how he is going to play, I just hate all the chit-chat, I'm bored of it," Poulter said.
"It's going to be difficult for him but he's Tiger, he's the best player in the world, he has a win ratio of 50-50, so I would expect him to go out there and have a mega-week."