The Masters is improved when Tiger Woods is in row on Sunday. That many is over debate. There is simply no stage in golf that can contest with a fist-pumping, laser-focused Woods navigating Amen Corner when a immature coupler is within reach.
The final time we witnessed a excellence of this philharmonic was in 2011, when Woods hold organisation while Rory McIlroy crumbled…until Charl Schwartzel yanked a contest from everyone’s arms by birdeing any of a final 4 holes. To find a final time Woods indeed slipped on golf’s many iconic conform piece, we have to go proceed behind to a pre-Twitter days of Apr 2005. The No. 1 strain in America was “Candy Shop” by 50 Cent. President George W. Bush was in a initial year of his second term. This author was a 10-year-old fourth grader.
In other words: it’s been a while. A prolonged while. A prolonged adequate while, for many people, to assume we’ll never see it again. But this is Tiger Woods during Augusta National we’re articulate about. It’s value revisiting only how towering his success during a Masters has been—the 4 victories are impressive, yes, though how about this: In 18 Masters starts as a professional, he has finished T–8 or improved 13 times.
Any time Woods’ physique is in one square and he possesses anything imitative a golf swing, there are going to be copiousness of people who truly trust he is going to win his 15th major. This faith is some-more farcical in some years than others—2014 comes to mind as a quite absurd year to be on a Tiger train, when his dual pre-Augusta starts finished in an 82 and a withdrawal, respectively. On a flip side, there was each reason to trust Woods would win a 2013 Masters—he won 3 of his 5 starts that year before entrance to Augusta as, rightfully, a restricted favorite. Instead, he finished tied for fourth.
So what about this year? Is there reason to trust Tiger has a legitimate possibility to win—not to finish in a tip 20 or a tip 10, though to win—the Masters? Let’s examine.
• Augusta-specific skills. Perhaps some-more than any other march professionals play, Augusta requires internal knowledge, devise and a sold ability set. It’s since some guys, like Fred Couples and Bernhard Langher, seem to always play good even as they swell good past AARP age. You need to know what tools of a fairway outcome in what bounces, where we can and can’t skip around a greens, that putts we can be assertive with, etc. Tiger, of course, knows all this. He’s won a contest 4 times. He has a diversion devise that’s regularly proven to be successful.
Another aspect operative in Tiger’s preference is his ability to figure his iron shots from disproportionate lies. Augusta famously has a garland of holes that spin from right to left, definition a right-handed actor will mostly have a turn above his feet for a second shot. That lends itself to a draw, though draws don’t land as gently as fades, and that’s poignant when you’re personification into greens as organisation and slopey as Augusta’s. Woods, even now, can strike cuts off pull lies (and draws of cut lies, for that matter), and he’s one of maybe 8 players in a margin who can do that. Don’t blink that ability.
• Statistics. Conventional knowledge says that we have to be a good dabble to win during Augusta, and there have been a garland of winners who would seem to uphold that theory—Tiger, Phil, Spieth, Reed and Crenshaw, to name a few. But in new years, a winners have typically been guys who were distinguished a turn during an chosen level. How do we explain this? Perhaps Augusta’s greens are so formidable that they radically vacate good putters. It’s simply not possibly to putt improved than a certain threshold out there, so a best proceed to make adult strokes on a margin is to strike it closer, rather than try to hurl in prolonged putts.
Here’s how a final 6 winners ranked in strokes gained tee to immature entrance into Masters week.
2018: Patrick Reed (24th)
2017: Sergio Garcia (3rd)
2016: Danny Willett (7th)
2015: Jordan Spieth (4th)
2014: Bubba Watson (4th)
2013: Adam Scott (1st)
2012: Bubba Watson (1st)
Tiger now ranks eighth in strokes gained tee to green. He’s also 18th in strokes gained coming a green—which he’s led during a finish of each year he’s been authorised solely 2018, when he finished third—and sixth in strokes gained overall. His finishes so distant haven’t been illusory (T20, T15, T10, T30, in his stroke-play events) though a non-scoring stats are indeed flattering good.
• Confidence. Tiger really wants to mangle Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour victories, though non-major, non-FedEx playoff and non-team events are, during this indicate in his career, saved tune-ups for a 4 large ones. He thinks of his years by a lens of majors, and he had a legitimate possibility to win a final dual majors he played in. There was Carnoustie, where he hold a solo lead on a behind 9 before a catastrophic double-bogey, and there was Bellerive, where his final-round 64 came adult only brief of Brooks Koepka. Woods will positively pull certainty from those experiences. He knows his diversion is good adequate to be nearby a lead on Sunday; that’s all we can ask for.
Also, don’t blink how large that match-play win over Rory McIlroy was. McIlroy is in a midst of one of a best stretches of his career. He’s clearly a best actor in a universe right now, and he competence be a many confident…and Tiger kick him. It wasn’t pretty, though he stared down a game’s best actor in a head-to-head environment and he won. That’s not insignificant.
• Inconsistency. At a risk of contracting a loyal cliché, winning a golf contest requires we to put 4 good rounds together. Woods has shown spurts of mass this year—he played 4 holes in 5 underneath to start his third turn during Riviera, and afterwards did that again to kick Patrick Cantlay during a compare play—but he has been incompetent to equivocate sharpened himself in a foot. Whether it’s a cold putting streak, like in Mexico, or dual tee shots in a water, like on 17 during a Players, he’s had a tough time preserving momentum.
Woods hasn’t shot dual uninterrupted rounds in a 60s nonetheless this year, and as a result, he hasn’t been any closer than 8 shots behind a personality in his 4 stroke-play events this year. Contrast that with his pre-Augusta finishes in a years he won a immature jacket. In 1997: WIN-T18-T2-T20-T9-T31; in 2001: T8-T5-T13-4-T13-WIN-WIN; in 2002: T10-T12-T5-T33-2-WIN-T14-WIN. What’s a common thesis there? The Masters has never been Tiger’s initial win of a season.
• Putting. Simply put, Woods is carrying a misfortune putting deteriorate of his career so far. The eye exam shows a 43-year-old male who has turn increasingly streaky, generally on a shorter ones. The stats illustrated things some-more clearly:
146th: Putting inside 10 feet
68th: Putting from 10-15 feet
170th: Putting from 15-20 feet
78th: Strokes gained putting
184th: One-putt percentage
209th: Three-putt avoidance
208th: Approach putt performance
Those final dual statistics are both discouraging and related. Woods has struggled with his speed this year, and speed is a many critical aspect to loiter putting. Whatever a cause—age-induced erosion of feel? Injury-induced miss of practice?—the outcome is proceed some-more putts outward tap-in operation for standard (his proceed putt normal stretch from a hole is 2’7”). And given he’s no longer positively involuntary from 5 feet and in, he winds adult blank some of those comebackers. Every actor in a Masters margin is going to be faced with prolonged putts over ridges, and judging speed is going to be positively crucial. Augusta is only about a final place we wish to be struggling with stretch control on a greens.
• Can he pull a driver? If a putting stats are worse than a routinely are, a pushing stats—at slightest a correctness ones—are indeed improved than they have been in years past. There’s a little-known stat called Good Drive Percentage, and I’ll save we a boredom of an explanation, though here’s what we need to know: Francesco Molinari leads, Jim Furyk is second, Tiger Woods is third. He’s also 59th in pushing accuracy. On a aspect there isn’t anything to write home about, though cruise that in Woods’ second primary (2005-09) he averaged 142nd in pushing correctness and never finished improved than 86th.
This is good news, right? Yes and no. The reason Woods is some-more accurate is since he’s grown a go-to shot: a fist cut. He’s not overhanging scarcely as tough with his arms, and it’s producing a nice, prosaic turn moody that moves from left to right. Unfortunately, Augusta asks for some-more draws than cuts off tees. While Tiger has pulled off some good draws this year (often with a 3-wood) he’s many some-more gentle attack fades with a large stick.
How was Tiger means to win 4 Masters, then? He was comparably many longer off a tee behind then, and Augusta wasn’t as long, so his length advantage fundamentally done all else a indecisive point. Not anymore—he’s 42nd in pushing distance, so he’s no longer means to fly it past where a rest of a margin is alighting their drives.
Would it be intolerable if Tiger won this tournament? No. Would it be surprising? Definitely. So many of a world’s best players are in good form—Rory, Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Francesco Molinari, Justin Thomas, to name only a few—and Tiger’s been only decent this year. Something in a 8-16 operation feels like a satisfactory guess for this major. That’s not a explanation on his destiny vital prospects—he has a improved possibility during Pebble and Portrush—that’s simply an emotion-free prophecy for a 2019 Masters.