"He's close to winning a golf tournament", said former PGA Tour victor and Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee.
Woods is a four-times Masters champion but has not competed in the first major of the year since 2015 due to a back injury that some felt would spell the end of his illustrious career. "The more I play tournament golf, the better I'll get at it". The Copperhead course is regarded by some players as one of the best tournament layouts in Florida because of the hilly terrain, tree-lined fairways and water that comes into play only on seven of the 18 holes.
The now 42-year old Woods has contested three events since returning to full-time competition finishing T23rd at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, missing the cut at the Genesis Open and then sharing 12th place last week at the Honda Classic. Mickelson, now 47, has four top-10s in seven events on the PGA Tour this season, and in his last three starts at Phoenix, Pebble Beach and Riviera has finished T5, T2 and T6, respectively.
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By contrast, Woods is an eight-time victor of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, most recently in 2013.
"I need to keep building on it", said Woods last week to reporters at ther Honda Classic. That was the goal when I first came back - try and get everything situated for April.
Golf Channel and NBC analyst David Duval believes the Valspar Championship will help Woods' preparations ahead of the April 5-8 event at Augusta National.
"I've been away from tournament golf for so long that I'm starting to feel the rounds", Woods said Sunday following the Honda Classic. Jordan Speith is also expected to join the field.