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The Masters: Justin Thomas missing Tiger Woods’ presence at Augusta National

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“He’s bummed he’s not here playing practice rounds with us, and we hate it, too,” says Justin Thomas of five-time winner Tiger Woods; watch the coverage from Augusta National this week live on Sky Sports’ dedicated channel – Sky Sports The Masters

Justin Thomas reveals the conversations he has had with Tiger Woods in recent weeks and why it feels strange not to have the 15-time major champion at Augusta National.

World No 2 Justin Thomas has revealed he is personally feeling the impact of Tiger Woods’ absence in the build-up to The Masters.

Woods, a five-time winner at Augusta National, is recovering from the serious leg injuries he sustained in a single-vehicle car crash in Los Angeles on February 23.

Thomas, 27, is a member of a regular practice group at the Georgia venue alongside Woods and Fred Couples but is unable to call upon the experience of his fellow Americans this week.

Asked what he missed most about his good friend Woods being at home in Florida, Thomas said: “Playing the practice rounds with him for sure. We texted Friday morning and he said it’s kind of starting to set in. He’s bummed he’s not here playing practice rounds with us, and we hate it, too.

    DJ grouped with WestwoodFirst-round tee times

“I’m very, very lucky that I somehow got thrown into that practice round group with Tiger and Freddie (Couples) the last four years or whatever it is, especially around this place. I just follow them around like puppy dogs.

“Wherever they go, that’s where I go. If they hit chips from somewhere, I go hit chips from there.”

Justin Thomas practiced alongside fellow major champions Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry on Tuesday Justin Thomas practiced alongside fellow major champions Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry on Tuesday

Thomas said Woods is in good spirits without offering any specific updates on his condition, but added he has spent time with the 15-time major winner.

“I remember when I was out a month and a half for my wrist (injury) and I remember the people that reached out to me and checked on me, see how I was doing,” said Thomas, who won the Players Championship in March.

“That’s just what I want to do for him, is just be like, dude, I’ll do anything you want. If you need me to help out with your kids, I can do that. If you’re craving McDonald’s and you want me to bring it over, I’m here for you and I’ll help out however I can.

“It’s been good just to go hang out with him. We are fortunate with the basketball to just hang out and watch sports like we would any normal time.”

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Thomas revealed Couples had opted against playing with him in the normal Tuesday practice round. “He didn’t feel like getting up in the early cold weather this morning, so I made sure to give him some grief,” he joked.

Couples tweeted a picture on Tuesday wearing a face mask with “Frank,” Woods’ iconic head cover, on it and the caption, “Thinking of my guy Tiger Woods during this week. I’ll miss you tonight at the [champions] dinner. Not the same without you.”

Thomas, who won his only major to date at the 2017 US PGA Championship, shared the halfway lead in November’s Masters and went on to finish fourth, but admits he needs to temper his desire to win a Green Jacket.

“It’s hurt me in other majors, not just here, but it’s the (fact I) want to win so bad,” he said. “I feel like this place is so good for me.

“I’m doing the same preparation that I do in other majors and for this event, and for some reason everybody wants to win it a little bit more, and I definitely got sucked into that.

“But hopefully at the almost age of 28 now, I’ve matured a little bit and understand if and when it’s my time, it will happen.”

Meanwhile, Thomas says he has had a lot of “uncomfortable conversations” as he tries to grow as a person on and off the golf course after he used a homophobic slur at January’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.

“Everybody in this room is trying to learn and grow throughout their progression as characters, as individuals,” he said.

“And I, unfortunately, put myself in a situation where my route was a lot different route than I had seen it going, but that was the route now that I have.

“Everything happens for a reason, and I had a very difficult time understanding what that reason was, but trying to look at it as a positive and understand that I have a great chance to not only better myself but better people around me, and I feel like I’ve been on a great path for that.”

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