There is not a more polarizing figure in golf than Tiger Woods and this year he returns to Augusta for the first time in three years. This will also be just his second start in the last five years at The Masters and he will be keen to prove he still has what it takes to win.
Woods, as expected from a player of his calibre, has a fantastic record around Augusta. He has four Green Jackets and is one of just three players who has successfully defended his Masters title – doing so in 2002.
Missing the weekend just once in twenty starts is quite exceptional, and he has never missed the weekend here since turning professional.
The only person who can boast more wins here is Jack Nicklaus who has six Green Jackets to his name. Arnold Palmer also had four Masters wins before Woods was even born, but in the modern era, Woods’ record here is unrivalled.
Phil Mickelson can join him on four wins with a win this week, something Woods will want to prevent, but for now he is the most successful Masters player in the field and of course the most successful overall.
Why he can win the 2018 Masters
Has this year’s Masters come too early for Woods to win again? That will be the question on everyone’s lips, but one thing is for sure Tiger has come here with one intention and that is to win.
“I’m just here to win” Woods stated before going on to say “I’ve been better with each week I’ve competed”
It is hard to argue with Wood’s claim. After a 12th place finish at the Honda Classic and T2 finish at the Valspar Championship, it looked for all the world that Tiger could go on and win the Bay Hill Invitational, an event he has won eight times before. It wasn’t to be though, despite his best effort, an errant tee shot on the 16th hole on Sunday, put to sword any chances of a fairy-tale win, after having a chance to tie the lead just one hole before.
Given the signs of form he has shown since his latest comeback, there is every reason to believe that Woods can not only win again but also win another major, but there’s still a question mark of when.
If Tiger was back to his brilliant best, would he have taken down the Valspar Championship instead of finishing one stroke shy? It’s a tough one, because he outplayed an awful lot of good players that week, and we are not doubting them as much ahead of this week, and Paul Casey’s brilliant round on Sunday was hard to match. Due to his past brilliance however, we are forced to debate as to whether the Tiger of old would have got the win and that is why there are still those that need convincing ahead of this week, even if he doesn’t.
Should he only get to the level he has played at in his last few events, Woods would still likely return to the winners’ circle in regular events, but major titles may be harder come by– something sure to be on his mind.
Still just 42, Woods has a few competitive years on his side to chase down Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors, should he remain injury-free, but given his track record, remaining healthy for an extended period of time seems unlucky, especially as he advances in age.
Due to his current form he cannot be completely ruled out this week, and a win for Tiger on Sunday would certainly be an exciting spectacle for golf fans and even players across the globe.
His lack of win here since 2005 is an obvious reason for concern, but injury issues have robbed him of a few more starts, where he may well have got another one since. We often see Augusta veterans play well here even in their advancing years, namely Mickelson, Freddie Couples and Bernhard Langer, all of whom are older than Woods. All there were younger than 40 the last time they won here though, and that has to be taken into account when looking at Wood’s win credentials at this special event.
Can Woods become the first 40-something winner since Mark O’Meara in 1998? He will certainly think so, as will arch-rival, Phil Mickelson so that trend is certainly under pressure this week.
A 14-time major champion, including four wins here, Tiger’s performance in particular will be of great interest this week and the spotlight will be firmly on him regardless of how many elite players have been playing well, leading into this week.