Tiger Woods excited about the Masters, thankful for 'second chance on life'

With his first Masters in three years approaching next week and a good deal of optimism surrounding his game, Tiger Woods acknowledged surprise at how far he has come since spinal fusion surgery less than a year ago.

"I got a second chance on life,'' Woods said Friday in a story posted on his website. "I am a walking miracle.''

Woods, 42, who has not played in a major championship the past two years and has missed three of the past four Masters, returns as one of the betting favorites after impressive results in five tournaments in 2018 on the PGA Tour.

In his last start, he tied for fifth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. That came a week after missing a playoff by one stroke and finishing tied for second at the Valspar Championship.

"I'm just really looking forward to playing," said Woods, who has won the Masters four times, the last in 2005. "It's the best-run tournament in the world. The golf course, the patrons, the entire atmosphere. It's a golfer's heaven."

Woods said he visited Augusta National last week for two practice rounds on the course he had not played since the 2015 Masters, when he tied for 17th. He was joined for 9 holes each day by Bryson DeChambeau, who has played practice rounds with Woods on a few occasions this year.

Temperatures were cold, in the 30s and 40s, which Woods said made the course play "brutally long. The ball wasn't flying or rolling out. It will play much, much faster in the tournament.''

He also acknowledged that the rolling hills and undulation were something to get used to again. "I've played basically flat courses,'' he said. "Hitting off slopes and walking was different. The only real flat spots at Augusta are the boxes. You have to make constant adjustments.''

Woods said he was sorting out his practice-round schedule, possible changes to the shafts in his driver and 3-wood, as well as whether he would play Wednesday's par-3 contest.