Tiger Woods played a practice round at Augusta National on Monday. (TIMOTHY A. CLARY / Getty Images)

Augusta National’s trademark azaleas are missing in action, but Tiger Woods is not and, for a change, neither is his golf game. He’s back for his 18th trip to the Masters, hoping to win his fifth green jacket.

“I’ve spent half my life playing this tournament,” Woods, 36, said in a press-conference remark guaranteed to make everyone feel old this afternoon at Augusta.

He was relaxed and smiling and focused. A victory here would tie Jack Nicklaus’s 73 PGA Tour victories — and get Woods a step closer to his record 18 victories in majors. (Woods has 14.) “I know the 73 would be a byproduct of it,” Woods said, “but I’m here for the green jacket.”

For a change, Woods may actually be favored to win, after getting his first victory in 30 months in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill on March 25. He spoke, as he often has as he’s revamped his golf game with up-and-down results, of the process. “I’ve put together two good rounds, then three, then four,” Woods said. “ ... I’ve been in contention, it’s just continuing the process.”

There are caveats with Woods’s favored status — as Yahoo’s Eric Adelson points out. “You can play 100 practice rounds,” Woods said, “but Thursday through Sunday it’s just a totally different experience.”

Woods will tee off at 10:35 a.m. Thursday, playing in a group with Miguel Angel Jimenez and Sang-Moon Bae. They tee off at 1:42 p.m. Friday.

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