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The Malaysian Insider :: Sports

Tiger back on the prowl at the Masters

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 07:36 PM PDT

Tiger Woods of the US celebrates sinking a birdie putt in 2011 Masters golf tournament at Augusta, Georgia. — Reuters pic

AUGUSTA, Georgia, April 9 — The deafening roar that echoed around Augusta National today meant only one thing. Tiger Woods was back on the prowl. 

The former world number one's private life and golf game may have been torn to shreds in the past year but he remains the master of his lair. 

After a solid opening round of 71 on Thursday, Woods made his move at the Masters today, shooting a six-under-par 66 to reach the halfway stage at seven-under-par. 

That left him tied for third with South Korea's K.J. Choi, three strokes behind Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy and one behind Australia's Jason Day. 

"I played myself back in the tournament," Woods said. "I'm three back but we have got a long way to go. It's going to be fun." 

Woods may not have won a major since 2008 nor any tournament since 2009 but his charge up the leaderboard has already added a magical element to the tournament. 

He has won the Masters four times and finished in the top five on five other occasions and knows exactly what he has to do to win at Augusta. 

"My whole job is to get myself there with a chance with nine holes to go," he said. "That's what we have always done. I've been successful at it in the past by doing it that way." 

Even by his own standards, Woods' performance today, was startling. He made nine birdies, including seven from the eighth hole, and his 66 was just one shot off his lowest ever round at Augusta. 

It also came at a time when he has been tinkering with his swing, which he said had made his recent results on the regular PGA Tour look deceptively poor. 

"The whole idea was to peak for this event," he explained. "We try to peak four times a year and it was nice to go through the learning curve." 

At his peak, the 14-time major winner was almost unbeatable and held a psychological edge over many of his rivals but that has partly been eroded by his below-par performances and the rise of a new generation of golfers, led by McIlroy. 

Woods, more than anyone else, helped inspire the current crop of fearless, long-hitting players and now the hunter finds himself as the hunted. 

"It's good to see these guys out here playing with that much enthusiasm and that much zest for the game. And that good," Woods said. 

"But I'm just trying to put myself in the mix come Sunday. It's irrelevant who is there." — Reuters

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McCoy hopeful of repeat grand national triumph

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 06:23 PM PDT

Quito de la Roque (left) ridden by Davy Russell is chased by Sarando ridden by Will Kennedy, on Ladies' Day at the Grand National Meeting at Aintree, Liverpool. — Reuters pic

LIVERPOOL, April 9 — Tony McCoy is optimistic that Don't Push It, who ended the champion jockey's long wait for a Grand National victory last year, can become the first back-to-back winner since 1974 at Aintree today. 

The Jonjo O'Neill-trained 11-year-old, who must carry top weight of 11st 10lbs, has been heavily backed in recent days and is now 12-1 second favourite. 

"Don't Push It is a strange character and we knew last year that he would either love it or hate it. Fortunately, he took to the fences, and I knew quite early on in the race that he was on a going day," McCoy said yesterday. 

"Some previous winners have gone back the following year and not enjoyed it, but I see no reason why Don't Push It should not run his race again. He is calm and relaxed and I have to be hopeful." 

An estimated £300 million (RM1.47 billion) is set to be wagered on the race. 

"Don't Push It landed a huge National gamble last year to leave the bookies reeling and with McCoy on board once more, punters will be out in their droves to support the champion jockey," said totesport spokesman George Primarolo. 

Irish raider The Midnight Club, trained by Willie Mullins, is the current 9-1 favourite and bids to give jockey Ruby Walsh a third National victory. 

While McCoy won at his 15th attempt last year, five-times champion trainer Paul Nicholls is still waiting for a first victory having saddled 48 runners without success. 

Nicholls tries again with Niche Market, Ornais, The Tother One and What A Friend, part-owned by Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson. The Scot will miss the race as it clashes with his side's Premier League clash at home to Fulham. 

Sam Waley-Cohen, who put the professional riders in the shade by winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Long Run last month, has a leading chance of becoming the first amateur to win the National since 1990. 

Waley-Cohen rides leading fancy Oscar Time for Irish trainer Martin Lynch. 

Forty runners will line up at 1515 GMT to jump 30 fences over the stamina-sapping four miles and four furlongs race. Latest betting (totesport): 9-1 The Midnight Club, 10-1 Don't Push It, 11-1 Backstage, 12-1 Oscar Tme, Silver By Nature, What A Friend, 14-1 Ballabriggs, Big Fella Thanks. — Reuters

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