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John Cook, who has 11 PGA Tour wins on his resume, and Arjun Atwal, who practiced several times last week with the embattled superstar, both said Woods is crushing the ball and seems to be in a good frame of mind. Woods has been practicing at Tavistock Cup at Isleworth course, near his Orlando home.
"I don't see anyone that hits the ball like he does," Cook told Reuters. "I'd be hard pressed to see anyone beat him but it will be his first rounds of golf for five months."
Woods, whose once pristine image has been in the deep rough since an ugly Thanksgiving night incident and subsequent revelations of philandering, is planning to make his big return to competitive golf at the Masters, from April 8-11. But while Woods can still swing a club better than anyone on the planet, the prestigious tournament comes as he battles to save his marriage and will likely subject him to more questions and possibly even heckling.
Woods ducked out of sight for more than two months as a parade of women came forward to say they had trysts with him behind the back of his former Swedish model wife, Elin Nordegren. He resurfaced at a carefully-orchestrated press conference in February, copping to cheating on his wife, saying he was sorry and noting that he had been in some sort of treatment. Last weekend, he gave a pair of five minute interviews to handpicked reporters and apologized some more, but offered no real details about his personal turmoil.
On Tuesday, 29-year-old Devon James became the third porn star to allege a sexual relationship with Woods, making the claim in a radio interview just as the golfer preps for his big return.
Still, if Woods can tune out his distractions, he could wear the Augusta National Golf Club's fabled green jacket once again. He's won it four times, including in 1997, when he was just 21.
"He is hitting it just fine — he is hitting it longer than before, there is no doubt and he feels like he is not totally ready but I have seen him win with what he has right now, plenty of times. I think he is ready but you know him, until he has every aspect right he isn't going to go out there," Atwal told reporters.
Both men said Woods seems relaxed and confident when in his element.
"He's very mellow now, he's very chilled out, obviously whatever is going on at home I don't know, I don't even ask him, when he is out with us you can see that he is more at peace right now. I think he is doing all the right things," said Atwal.