LOS ANGELES • Tiger Woods, fresh off his Valspar Championship runner-up finish that propelled him to become joint-second favourite for the Masters next month, has moved to cool the hype that has gripped the golf world.
But the four-time champion admitted being psyched up about returning to Augusta, where he last played in 2015.
"I love playing Augusta. I love it. And I know how to play it," he said ahead of this week's PGA Tour event at Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill layout, one of his favourite haunts, where he has triumphed eight times.
"Just me being out there on those greens and hitting putts and being creative... there's no other golf course like it in the world and there's no other golf tournament like it. It's a players' heaven."
Still, it is all about baby steps for the American, following his return to competition this year after spinal fusion surgery last April.
The 14-time Major champion said: "Just keep getting better. Just keep making incremental improvements... each and every week, I've learnt from what I've done and more importantly I'm learning my body. I'm learning how I can swing it and not swing it.
"I'm getting a lot better at it. You're starting to see the fruits of that now of the little tweaks and I'm excited about it."
Woods recounted the fond memories he had of Palmer, the seven-time Major winner who died in 2016.
The 42-year-old said: "To be able to win this tournament and to have Arnold there... I thoroughly enjoyed being around him. None more so than last time I won here (in 2013)."
That was the year of his last PGA Tour title, but hopes are high that he can end that drought as well as win a first Major since 2008 at the April 5-8 Masters.
Woods and South Africa's Ernie Els were also named captains of the US and International teams for the 2019 Presidents Cup to be played at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club from Dec 12 to 15.
ARNOLD PALMER INVITATIONAL
Day 1: StarHub Ch204, tomorrow, 2am