- Associated Press - Saturday, April 2, 2011

Tiger Woods at the Masters is every bit the mystery he was a year ago.

No one knew what to expect when Woods showed up at Augusta National last year without having played in five months, more vulnerable than invincible from the public humiliation of a sex scandal.

No one is quite sure what to expect from him now.

His wife divorced him. He changed coaches and decided, at age 35, to rebuild his golf swing for the fourth time.

He lost his No. 1 ranking to Lee Westwood, then Martin Kaymer. When he goes to this year’s Masters, which starts Thursday, it will be the first time since 1997 that Woods is outside the top five in the world ranking. Off the golf course, he has not replaced any of the corporate sponsors that left him.

And most glaring of all, Woods is not winning.

Not even close.

“It’s strange,” Stewart Cink said. “We got so used to seeing him win.”

He tied for fourth last year at Augusta, remarkable by any standard but his own. It raised false hopes that he could put his game back together quickly and resume his pursuit of history. But with each tournament, he resembles the guys he once routinely beat.

In 69 rounds since the Masters, Woods has broken par only 31 times. In 14 out of 18 tournaments, he has finished at least seven shots out of the lead. In the 18 tournaments before his downfall, that happened only three times.

At Firestone, where Woods had won seven times and had never finished out of the top five, he shot the highest 72-hole score of his career (298) and finished 30 shots behind the winner. In his first start this year at Torrey Pines, where his seven victories include the U.S. Open on a shattered leg, he finished 15 shots out of the lead.

That gap between his 14 majors and the record 18 won by Jack Nicklaus now looks like a gulf.

“I’m surprised that he has not bounced back by now,” Nicklaus said. “He’s got such a great work ethic. He’s so determined to do what he wants to do. I’m very surprised that he has not popped back. I still think he’ll break my record. We’ll see. You probably can ask me that same question at the end of this year and we’ll see what the answer is. My guess is as good as yours.”

That’s about all anyone can do when it comes to Woods _ guess.

The divorce in August provided for shared parenting. Woods is about to move into a new home he is building in south Florida, not far from where his ex-wife will live. There have been tales of his 2-year-old son, Charlie, already swinging away with a golf club and wandering onto the range to watch Dad at work.

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