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The Masters notebook: Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler's baby watch and gnomes!

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The Masters notebook: Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler's baby watch and gnomes!

Sky Sports' Jamie Weir and Ali Stafford look back at some of the storylines from the practice days at The Masters, including Rory McIlroy, questionable outfits and garden gnomes...

Tiger Woods can make more Masters history this week with a record-breaking 24th consecutive cut, but the former world No 1 continues to have eyes on a bigger prize and an unlikely bid for a 16th major title.

Woods has completed a 72-hole tournament just three times since his unsuccessful title defence at Augusta National in November 2020, with the 48-year-old having to withdraw mid-round from last year's tournament and unable to finish the Genesis Invitational in February.

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Patrons lined the fairways for Woods' back nine practice with Will Zalatoris on Monday and the front nine the following morning, where he had regular playing partners Justin Thomas and Fred Couples for company, with little doubt he still drives excitement more than any other golfer.

Woods said in his press conference that he felt he could still be a contender for more major glory, if everything comes together, but the challenge of completing four rounds on an undulating layout will provide a physical and mental challenge.

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We've all been guilty of writing Woods' hopes off in the past and being left with egg on our faces when he proves us wrong. Seeing him in contention on Sunday would be a feat arguably bigger than anything we've seen from him before.

Rory McIlroy has tried almost every way possible to prepare for The Masters, with his pre-event visits to Augusta National, his pre-tournament practice and his early-season schedule continuously tweaked to try and help him secure his only missing major.

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This year has been no different, with McIlroy electing to tee it up at Valero Texas Open last week and then being the last of the 89 players to register at Augusta National, only arriving at the venue around midday on Tuesday.

McIlroy had full focus on The Masters in his pre-tournament media duties, only taking eight questions about his game and his major hopes in a shortened press conference, with the Northern Irishman also limiting his practice ahead of the tournament starting on Thursday.

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The former world No 1 said he has "all the tools" to end his decade-long major drought and make it 16th time lucky for Masters victory, despite a slow start to the PGA Tour season, with the discussions around his potential Grand Slam hopes likely to dominate the narrative.

He played nine holes on Tuesday afternoon, followed by another nine on Wednesday afternoon, with him skipping the Par-3 contest in the process further evidence that he's trying to stay in his bubble and just focus solely on the golf this week.

Scottie Scheffler is the overwhelming favourite to add to his major tally this week, having already won twice this year and been in such brilliant form, although the world No 1 could still see his attention drift away from the tournament.

Scheffler's wife Meredith is heavily pregnant and the couple are expecting their first child later this month, while Ryder Cup team-mate Sam Burns and his wife Caroline are due to have a baby next week.

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Burns and Scheffler are staying together without their wives this week, with Golf Channel reporting that the two players are prepared to withdraw from the tournament mid-event if their wife goes into labour earlier than expected.

Could we face the scenario where Scheffler takes a big lead into the final day, or Burns tops the leaderboard and is closing on a maiden major, only for them to pull out of the tournament to get home for the birth? Both will hope that the only arrival this week is a Green Jacket.

On Tuesday, Tommy Fleetwood - always one for a natty cardy - divided opinion with a mauve number. The DP World Tour even put out a Twitter poll to garner people's opinions on Tommy's knitwear.

Fleetwood himself told us that he does like a cardigan, joking that he'll never be Arnold Palmer, but that it's a look he can pull off. He did at least concede that he should maybe have given it an iron beforehand!

Shane Lowry's greatest moment of course was winning an Open Championship at Royal Portrush in 2019, when the weather was typically Irish - four seasons in one day.

The forecast for Thursday's opening round looks horrific, with torrential rain, thunderstorms and high winds forecast, with a perception building over time that Lowry thrives in adverse conditions.

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"I hate it!" Lowry told us. "There's a reason I left Ireland and moved to Florida!"

Lowry did admit that he seems to cope in poor weather better than most - he may have to during the opening round!

The sprawling Masters shop always generates plenty of excitement and huge queues, with the No 1 sought-after for this year's event being a garden gnome.

Numbers each day are limited and with the shop opening at 7am every morning, the last of the little garden ornaments are usually gone not long after! The queues have often had to be shut at times this week, given the volumes of patrons hoping to spend their dollars.

Aesthetically, we'll let you decide what you think of them, but they certainly seem to have developed a certain kitsch value, which has the patrons rushing for the shop the moment gates open. We're certainly going to buy one!

Who will win The Masters? Watch live this week exclusively on Sky Sports. Live coverage begins with Featured Groups on Thursday from 2pm on Sky Sports Golf. Stream The Masters and lots more golf with NOW.

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