Tiger Woods beamed his way round nine holes at Augusta National on Monday, radiating the joy of a man who knows that he’s lucky to be alive, for whom every second is now a bonus.  He’s been astounding the golfing world since he first picked up a club and he shows no signs of stopping now, with a Masters masterclass on his return to major competitive action after the car crash that nearly killed him just over a year ago.

“I know how to play golf and I know how to play this golf course,” he said after a first round of 71, one under par, on a tricky day when he plotted his way round the course with the nous and assurance of a man who has won five green jackets already.

This is from the 1977 Masters, Dai’s first I think and Tom Watson’s first green jacket. All a bit more homespun and less reverential than it is now.

Good and all as Tiger’s game was at his peak, it was his mind and his indomitable will to win, a ruthless single-mindedness, that kept his rivals floundering in his wake.  That determination and dedication kept him going through his painful rehab (pain is nothing new to someone who has had numerous surgeries throughout his career), with never a day off as he set his sights on striding the lush green fairways in Georgia in April.

Can he keep it going?  He’ll be doing his damnedest.  And he’ll be cheered every painful step of the way.

Rory isn’t one of my picks this week – though I’d love him to win and he’s been on my mind a lot.  He’s an Irish all-time great whatever he does from now on but if he remains on four majors – won in 2011, 2012 and 2014 (two) – where does that put him in the greater scheme of things?

A nearly-great I think.  A could-have-been great.  Almost but not quite.  A  brilliant career but not the career it could have been.  He’s not going to match Jack Nicklaus’s 18 major titles (plus a staggering 19 second places) or Tiger’s 15 (so far).  But I’m hoping he’ll have another little run and pick up another clutch of titles and become the winningest (horrible word but it’s getting late and it’ll do the job) European.

To do that Rory has to reach 8, to finish ahead of Harry Vardon (six Opens and one US Open); Nick Faldo (three Opens and three Masters); James Braid (five Opens); James Henry Taylor (five Opens); Seve Ballesteros (three Opens, two Masters).

Of course, if Rory puts us out of our misery (not to mention himself out of his) and wins the Masters this week, he’ll elevate himself beyond mere numbers because he’ll become only the sixth player to win all four majors, joining Nicklaus, Woods, Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen and Gary Player.  Hard to argue that that wouldn’t be greatness.

I have my own reasons for wanting him to get to 7 at least and I think it would a magnificent achievement to come back as a grizzled veteran (my God, he’ll be 33 next month) after setting the golfing world alight as a tousle-haired youngster full of bounce and bravura.  He must have thought this stuff was easy-peasy and then he found out that it wasn’t. Mostly anything but.

Rory admitted this week that it’s hard for him to rein in his extravagant side, to play what he can’t help feeling is “negative” golf; to play the percentages; to play away from the pins; to go for the sensible rather than the spectacular; and at all times TO LIMIT THE DAMAGE.

It’s NOT CHEATING, Rory.  Just ask Jack, Tiger, Tom Watson (8 majors and new honorary starter at The Masters).  Watch Tiger.  It’s skilful, it’s clever and it’s the way to win more majors.  You won’t win them all but you’ll stop beating yourself.

The trouble with Augusta is that every single shot demands your full concentration and attention, you daren’t switch off at all.  It’s mentally exhausting even if you’re striking the ball well and the top players are tested to limits that lie dormant a lot of the time.

I’d love Rory to come off the course every day and say, “I could not have SCORED any better.”  If that didn’t win him his green jacket, he wouldn’t be too far off.

My Pedrena trophy with other trinkets. Note Seve (with the late lamented Helen Lennon/Smith) bottom right.

I’ve done it only the once – if I haven’t bored you with this rare moment of triumph, you’ve been lucky – and I was cream-crackered, utterly shattered.  I also won a trophy and it’s one of my proudest possessions because the competition was at Pedrena, Seve’s club.  Viva Espana.

Talking of trophies, Jennifer Kupcho won the first major of the season, The Chevron Championship, at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, last Sunday.  It was the American’s first LPGA title and she became the last player to take the leap into Poppie’s Pond before the move to Texas next year.  The end of one era but perhaps the beginning of another.

A berobed Jennifer Kupcho with The Chevron Championship trophy after her winning dip [Chris Keane/IMG]

Last Sunday we had our captains’ drive-in and the official opening of our new holes and course at WHGC.  Unfortunately I had to miss it because I tested positive for the ubiquitous covid and I’ve been lying low – and testing positive – ever since.  Fortunately, there were lots of people taking photographs, so many thanks to them – not sure who took which pic, sorry – and congrats to everyone involved.

Kelvin Edwards, our club president, opens the new holes

With Judith, ladies’ captain, to the fore (centre, front) we stacked up nicely inside but once outside lost the match (narrowly).

Mo is still hors de combat but my covid, so far, fingers crossed, has been no worse than a bad cold.