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Tiger admits struggling in 2006

    AUGUSTA — Tiger Woods has finally admitted it.
    Despite his usual stoic appearance, last year’s Masters was unusually tough on the icon. With his father nearing the end of his life, Woods was struggling with intense emotions throughout the tournament and finished tied for third with a 4-under 284.
    “Last year was a lot more difficult than I was letting on because I knew that was the last tournament he was ever going to watch me play,” Woods said after his practice round Tuesday. “I just wanted to win one for his last time. I didn’t get it done, and it hurt quite a bit.”
    A year later, and after his father passed last May, Woods returns to Augusta this week seeking his fifth green jacket during a landmark year – the 10th anniversary of his first Masters championship.
    In 1997, at the young age of 21, Woods dazzled the golfing world and ignited a golf boom during his first Masters as a professional, setting 20 tournament records and carding an 18-under 270 to win by 12 strokes — the widest margin of victory in Masters history. He became the tournament’s youngest winner and set the record for lowest 72-hole total.
    “It was one of the most memorable events in golf watching Tiger win his first major here at Augusta,” said defending champion Phil Mickelson. “It was a monumental event.”
    The landmark win had a shaky start and a nervous Woods carded a 40 on the front nine. He made up for it quickly and shot 22-under on the next 63 holes, a spectacular turnaround he calls one of the best management-skill and putting rounds he’s ever put together.
    Woods’ life — and the sport of golf — has changed dramatically since that April weekend, and his extraordinary accomplishments include winning 12 majors, 56 PGA Tour titles and 10 worldwide wins. He won eight tournaments last year and is seeking his third consecutive major title after closing 2006 with wins at the British Open and the PGA Championship.
    Personally, Woods is on the verge of fatherhood as his wife is expecting to deliver the couple’s first child this summer. He’s already anticipating sleepless nights and said raising the child will be his top priority.
    “My whole life has changed, and it’s been a pretty dynamic change, the entire process the last 10 years,” Woods said. “My father is gone, and now I’m expecting a child myself. I’m at two different places in my life.”
    As for this week, Woods said he’s given no thought to another Tiger Slam (four consecutive majors), and he’s satisfied with his preparations so far.
    “I’ve hit the ball pretty well the last couple of weeks,” he said. “My practice sessions last week at home at so far this we have been (good). I’m getting better each day.”
    Woods opens Masters play with a 1:52 tee time Thursday afternoon. He’ll be paired with England’s Paul Casey and Australia’s Aaron Baddeley.

    Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.

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