5 Things: The Tiger & Rory Show at Augusta

Tiger Woods speaks to the media during a practice round prior to the start of the 2012 Masters Tournament at Augusta National.

For the media, fans and players alike, Tuesday is a big day. Fans get to take in practice rounds, watching their favorite players in a non-competitive setting. The media get access to relaxed players. And the players get a chance to learn a course that can change on a daily basis.

Here are 5 Things to take away from Tuesday at the Masters:

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1. Tiger Woods is still king, and his game backs it up again

Tiger Woods held court on Tuesday, and came across as relaxed and confident, something we haven't seen in a few years.

Woods even says he has more shots to play now than he did when he dominated the game back in 2000.

And people are starting to believe him. Coming off a convincing, five-shot win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational two weeks ago, Woods says he is able to shape the ball better than he has been able to in years.

“I think I have more shots than I did in 2000,” Woods said of a season in which he had nine victories and four seconds in 20 starts and set more than 30 Tour records. “As far as controlling my game, yeah, I feel like I’m hitting the ball just as consistently day-in and day-out as I did then.”

Our Jeff Rude says that he is starting to buy what Tiger is selling. Click here for more.

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2. Rory McIlroy says he has a new attitude about Masters

Rory McIlroy will need to exorcise some Augusta demons with his first round on Thursday, proving to himself and the world that his 8-over 80 in the final round of the 2011 Masters was the exception, not the rule.

On Tuesday, McIlroy talked about an improved putting stroke and a different mentality at the Masters.

“I’m in a great place,” said McIlroy. “I feel like my golf game is in great shape. I’m coming back here a much more experienced player ... and a much better player than the player who came here last year.”

For more on McIlroy's press conference, check out what Sean Martin had to say about the young Northern Irishman.

Meanwhile, our Jeff Rude says that McIlroy was dealt a blow when the pairings were released at noon. McIlroy will be paired with Angel Cabrera, who played with McIlroy during that 8-over 80. McIlroy says that Cabrera's speed wreaked havoc with his own game. For more, click here.

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3. Phil Mickelson says it could be a birdie-fest at Augusta National

Augusta National was doused with about a 1/4 inch of rain overnight, softening the greens and giving a distinct advantage to a group of players . . .

The newcomers.

Phil Mickelson spent much of his press conference on Tuesday talking about how the weather could take the advantage out of the hands of those who have played here before and level the playing field. If things don't firm up, Mickelson believes it will be a "birdie-fest."

“As soft as the golf course is, you can fire at a lot of pins. The greens are soft,” Mickelson said Tuesday during his pre-tournament news conference. “I don’t want to say they are slow, but it’s just not the same Augusta. It’s wet around the greens, and there’s no fear of the course. You’ve got to attack it this week.”

For more on Mickelson, click here.

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4. Dustin Johnson withdraws

Augusta National will be without one of the game's young stars this week after Dustin Johnson withdrew Tuesday, citing recurring back pain.

According to his agent, David Winkle, Johnson aggravated the injury when he moved a jet ski last week at his home in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Johnson has had an injury-filled six months, undergoing knee surgery in November. His agent says there is no timetable for Johnson's return.

For more on this story, see what our Alex Miceli had to say about Johnson's situation.

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5. What about Lee Westwood, Luke Donald . . .

Lee Westwood wasn't having any of this talk about the tournament really being about two players.

“I think everybody in this room would have to be naïve to think it’s a two-horse race, wouldn’t they?” he said during his Tuesday morning press conference.

Westwood has been T-11 or better in four of his 12 starts at the Masters, including a second-place finish in 2010, so maybe he has a right to speak out a bit.

For more on Westwood, as well as plenty of notes, click here.

Meanwhile, World No. 1 Luke Donald is taking the opposite approach, perfectly happy letting Woods and McIlroy take the spotlight.

"Obviously Tiger is always the guy that pushes the needle the most, and obviously Rory gets a lot of attention now," Donald said. "But for me, that's probably a good thing. I can kind of go about my business and just get on with things."

For more on Donald, click here.

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