The Masters: Leishman ready for Woods adventure
AUSSIE Marc Leishman's stress-free Augusta approach will remain in play despite being paired with golf's "miracle man" Tiger Woods for the most epic Masters start in years.
Woods' ominous practice form, which included more eagles in a Tuesday pairing with Phil Mickelson, has ensured a round one audience with unrivalled attention.
And when the 14-time major winner - four at Augusta - declared he's been doing things he never thought possible after four back surgeries, expectations for another amazing Woods showing at Augusta hit peak levels.
"It's crazy. I thought prior to the fusion surgery that that's pretty much it. I'll have a nice, comfortable, and great life, but I'll never be able to swing the club like I used to," Woods said on the eve of the opening round.
"But for some reason I don't have any pain. All of a sudden I have this pop in my body and my speed's back and my timing. I'm hitting speeds that I would I hit in my prime.
"It is a miracle. I went from a person who really had a hard time getting up, walking around, sitting down, anything, to now swinging the club - you saw it at one of the TrackMans - 129. That is a miracle, isn't it?"
Woods is also putting and chipping as well as he did at his peak when the now 42-year-old dominated world golf in a way unlike anyone before or since, domination that began with a 12-shot Masters win as a 21-year-old in 1997.
"He's looked good, as good on or around the greens as I have seen in 15 years really," said Aussie Adam Scott, who saw the best of Woods first hand.
"That's a little scary for everyone especially the young guys who might not think he's all that much chop, who never really saw him playing in the early 2000s."
Leishman's young son Harvey was one of those who never saw Woods back then, and an explanation of his Thursday playing partner's accomplishments only reinforced how big the Victoria's round one could be.
"Harvey asked me, `How many trophies has he won Daddy?' I said 78. He said `How many you have you won?' I said three. So yeah, now he knows," Leishman said.
"It's nice to be able to put into a group like that. I guess it's a compliment. Yeah I'm excited about it. The big stage, the biggest stage.
"I have played in a lot of majors now and been in some big positions. I am not really worried about who I am playing with I am just trying to get myself in a good position on Sunday afternoon."
And Leishman said if you wanted to play with Woods anywhere, it was Augusta, where ground rules and the "pretty things to look at" make it easier to cope with the fervour that has been following his playing partner all week.
"You are not allowed to run here, so he won't be putting out them people running off. It's going to be less chaotic than it might have been at any other tournament," Leishman said.
"There will be a lot of cameras around … but I like playing in front of people, and there will certainly be a lot of buzz.
" And around here I find it easier to switch off … there are a lot of things to look at. I'm looking at it as a positive to play with him. I'm really looking forward to it."
Promising signs for Scott but he needs his A-game
There's one good omen in Adam Scott's favour five years on from his Masters success.
But he's not sure it will be enough to get him a second green jacket unless he can find the "good golf" that has only come in spurts this year.
Scott is one of four Aussies in the field at Augusta, the same number when he was victorious in 2013, and two of the three extras are the same, in Marc Leishman and Jason Day, who finished third and fourth behind him, with John Senden back in 35th.
"Was I in the worst form of the four at the time ?," Scott joked after a Tuesday practice round with Day and Leishman, knowing he's not hitting this year's Masters paying as well as he'd like.
"I think I am the same (as in 2013), which maybe is ordinary because everyone has gotten better and I may not have. I was at that point in the middle of the best golf I have ever played over about a three-year period, and I think I play a very similar game.
"I think my short game is better but it's hard to say because I haven't had the results I would like. I see the shots that are still good enough, I hit enough of them, I just made a few errors this year.
"Momentum is something I have fought for six weeks, I get it going then I make an error, that's mental discipline and that is something I am working hard to tune back in.
"And I think coming here will do me good, because the focus will sharpen up."
Augusta experience is the extra club Scott believes he has in his bag this week, and he needs only look back 12 months.
He entered last year's Masters with little expectation, but finished tied for ninth, so he's not ruling anything out.
"I like to think the guys who have played here a lot have a little upper hand out on the golf course and maybe more so when you get in to a little trouble out there, that's where the experience can pay off," said Scott, who will play with Rory McIlroy in the opening round.
"It looks really nice out there at the moment and you can hit these nice chip shots but it all gets more difficult on Thursday.
"I've been through this so many times and I think I know now how to pace myself around here, you don't need to take risks.
"When you get in trouble, if you are calm enough to make smart decisions, and accept a bogey rather than risking making a double or a triple, it's hard to get those shots back when you need to.
"I definitely want to use any calmness I have in my favour. If I can execute some good shots early and get off to a good start I really like the way my week could shape up."