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April 9 2013

2:30 PM

Does a fifth Green Jacket await Tiger?

Woods has six wins in his last 19 stroke-play events on TOUR. (Ehrmann/Getty Images)

By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- It has been seven years since Tiger Woods won the Masters.

In that time, he's battled injury and personal issues, changed coaches and swings and at one point tumbled to 58th in the world.

After six wins in his last 19 strokes-play events on the PGA TOUR, however, Woods is back on top. The only thing missing is a major.

Woods' last came at the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, where he won on a broken leg. He's been stuck on 14 ever since, not that he hasn't had opportunity -- especially here.

Six of the last seven years, Woods has finished in the top 6 at Augusta National. Twice, he finished second and third on another occasion.

"I was there on Sundays with a chance, and unfortunately just didn't get it done," Woods said Tuesday. "But as we all know, you have to putt well here."

That should give Woods plenty of confidence in his 19th trip down Magnolia Lane.

When he won in San Diego earlier this year, Woods led the field in putts per green in regulation.

At Doral, he had just 100 total putts for the week -- the fewest he's ever had over four rounds in his career.

In his victory at Bay Hill, Woods' putter again did the work. He was near the bottom of the field in fairways hit but led in strokes gained-putting.

Who leads the TOUR in strokes gained-putting this season? Yep, Woods.

The last seven years at Augusta National, however, it's been a different story.

In 2011, Woods tallied 120 putts for the week, racking up 30 or more putts in three of his rounds. He finished fourth, four strokes back of winner Charl Schwartzel.

Despite a Sunday charge that saw Woods erase a seven-shot deficit in nine holes, his comeback was thwarted by a missed 3-foot par putt on the 12th and a failed birdie attempt from 4 feet on the 15th.

In 2008 and 2009, Woods took 120 and 122 putts, respectively. The latter again included three rounds of at least 30 putts.

The year before, Woods opened with 33 putts and had 29 in the final round, and in 2006 when he finished three strokes behind Phil Mickelson Woods had 33 putts on Sunday, including three three-putts.

"The other person that theoretically didn't really putt well was Vijay (Singh) when he won," Woods said. "He hit more greens than anybody has ever hit to do it.

"Absolutely (puting cost me). I was there ball‑striking wise a few years through that stretch where I think I hit it pretty well.  Hit a lot of greens, but just didn't make enough putts."

Where does that leave the four-time Masters champion heading into this year's tournament?

"I feel comfortable with every aspect of my game," Woods said. "I've improved and I've got more consistent, and I think the wins show that.

"The confidence comes from being able to do it on the range first, and being able to do it at Medalist back home and come out here and do it consistently and I'm starting to do that. The wins have piled up the last couple years."

The only thing that hasn't are the Green Jackets.

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