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Rory and Tiger command Masters spotlight

Four-times champion Woods only decided last week to compete at Augusta National.

FILE: Tiger Woods. Picture: AFP

AUGUSTA - This week's Masters is one of the most intriguing ever with the prospect of a career grand slam for Rory McIlroy and uncertainty over the state of Tiger Woods' game heading a plethora of compelling storylines.

Northern Irish world number one McIlroy is gunning for his third consecutive victory in a major, and a first green jacket at the spiritual home of the American game, to complete a full set of all four of golf's blue riband events.

Four-times champion Woods, meanwhile, only decided last week to compete at Augusta National after struggling badly in his two tournament starts this season, but has looked a very different and relaxed player during practice over the past three days.

"Everyone is just curious to see how he comes back," McIlroy said earlier this week about Woods' return to competition after a two-month absence from the PGA Tour while retooling his swing.

"I don't think you should ever underestimate him. He's done things on the golf course that are pretty special. As a golf fan in general, I'm interested to see how he does."

Woods posted the highest score of his professional career, an 11-over 82, to miss the cut at the Phoenix Open in January, and withdrew from the Farmers Insurance Open the following week after 11 holes because of tightness in his back.

The former world number one, who claimed the most recent of his 14 major titles at the 2008 US Open, said he would not return to competition until his game was "tournament-ready" and many pundits believe he is suffering from the chipping 'yips'.

However, last Friday he finally announced his decision to play in this week's Masters.

"I feel like my game is finally ready to compete at this level, the highest level," said Woods, who won the most recent of his four green jackets at Augusta National 10 years ago.

"There's no other tournament in the world like this, and to come back to a place that I've had so many great memories at and so many great times in my life, it's always special."

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