Will Tiger Woods (Bridgestone Tour B XS) play in this year’s Masters?
That is the big question heading into the start of the tournament on Thursday.
He has said it will be a game-time decision.
It reminds me of what happened five years ago when Dustin Johnson hurt his back in a fluke household fall the night before and wrenched his back, putting his participation in doubt for the Masters, in which he was the favorite. I remember watching the TV coverage of it and it was like something CNN was following as a breaking news story. There were shots of Johnson in the driving range, watched by his swing coach Butch Harmon III. Johnson pushed the time limit to its conclusion before deciding he couldn’t participate.
It took a long time for Johnson, then the top-ranked golfer in the world, to recover from the soft tissue damage. He finally won the Masters in 2020, which took place in the fall compared to the spring, with no fans in attendance due to COVID-19 and with a course soaked by rain.
He won by five shots, set a tournament record with a score of 20-under and a few other notable Masters mark.
Woods was a non-factor in the tournament, remembered more for shooting a seven-over par on one hole. The year before he won the tournament in one of the all-time great moments in sports history. It was more than just a golf moment.
But the focus is even greater this year because it was less than 14 months that he was involved in a single-car crash and suffered multiple injuries, notably a shattered right leg. That he has seemingly recovered from it – and let’s not forget he’s had a history of back and knee injuries – is a testament to his commitment to play the game again. There was speculation he’d be fortunate just to be able to walk.
So by Thursday we will have the answer. If he starts, the next story line will be will he make the cut? If he does that, the question will be will he win?
You can be sure if he plays, the attention will be squarely on him and less about the other players and the tournament.
Would it be great to see him play? For sure. He is one of the greatest athletes of his generation. But if he plays and fails, it will be sad, notwithstanding what he had done just to participate. It’s well known that he doesn’t want to be in it if he doesn’t think he can win it. He is that proud.
If he is this close to the tournament and says it’s a game-time decision, then this is either drama at its finest or he really isn’t sure. It’s too similar to what happened with Johnson.
In this era of sports betting, I think it’s a terrible play to bet on him to win. Right now it’s about 35-1. A month ago, it was about 66-1. It just goes to show how much people are willing to bet on a miracle, which is what it would be if he prevails. He has not played any meaningful golf since the injury. Yes, he played in a fun event with his son, but that’s nothing like doing it with the top players in the world. He has long since lost his edge off of the tee and no longer draws fear into his opponents. It is more like respect – and there’s a huge difference. A combination of great golf programs at American universities and colleges have produced a new breed of players who are technically sound and pay attention to fitness. Add in the ball and club technology that has helped produce greater distance and this is the reason we are routinely seeing 340-plus yard tee shots and, occasionally, some that creep close to or over 400. It’s absolutely crazy.
So, whatever happens with Tiger, I believe there are only two players who can win this – Scottie Scheffler (Titleist Pro V1) and Cameron Smith (Titleist Pro V1x). Scheffler is ranked number one in the world and is having a breakout season. He tied for 18th last year and 19th in 2020. I give the edge to Smith, who tied for second in the tournament in 2020 and tied for 10th last year. The combination of experience and current play make the two prohibitive favorites over the field.