Tiger's absence a Masters anomaly

GOLF

Rivals admit the Masters feels different without Tiger Woods prowling Augusta National for the first time in 20 years.

It may be nine years since Woods won the last of his four green jackets and his aura of invincibility is not what it was, but at Augusta National he's almost an institution.

Adam Scott says Woods' absence following back surgery is a "huge loss".

But Scott, who is bidding to not only become the first back-to-back Masters winner since Woods in 2002 but also to take his world No 1 ranking, also notes the Masters is bigger than any player.

"It's the nature of sports, and guys get injured and it's an unfortunate timing for that," world No 2 Scott said ahead of his title defence starting on Friday [AEST].

"But, as every year here, this event produces something special no matter what.

"It just has a way of doing it, and it's not going to involve Tiger this year, but it will involve someone else and it will be a memorable event anyway."

Old foes agree it isn't quite the same without Woods.

"It's a weird feeling not having him here, isn't it?" said Phil Mickelson, who is seeking to match Woods by claiming his fourth green jacket this week.

"He has been such a mainstay in professional golf and in the majors. It's awkward to not have him here.

"As much as I want to win and I know how great he is and tough to beat, it also makes it special when he's in the field and you're able to win."

Rory McIlroy, one of this week's favourites, agrees some of the "buzz" goes out of the atmosphere for the fans without Woods.

"But you know, as a player, it doesn't really make any difference."

Woods's recent back surgery aimed at prolonging his career raises obvious questions.

Will he be fit enough to play the US Open at Pinehurst in June and the British Open in July?

Will the 14 times major champion ever succeed in achieving his lifelong ambition to surpass the records of 18 majors and six Masters won by Jack Nicklaus?

What the future has in store for Woods, no-one really knows, but with his 40th birthday just 20 months away, everyone agrees that time is beginning to run out for him.

"Tiger, I mean Tiger's been around for so long. He's 38 now. He's an old man," joked Jason Day.

"He's getting older now and the body just doesn't react the same as it did when he was 21. It's sad to see him hurt." AAP

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