Tiger Woods, Donald and Piercy at Masters tees off tomorrow

Tiger Woods, Donald and Piercy at the Masters tees off tomorrow

The Hunt for a Fifth Green Jacket

When the Masters tees off tomorrow, the attention of the world will be on 93 of the world’s best golfers.  But no one will be more closely watched than Tiger Woods.  He will tee off in his 19th Masters tomorrow at 10:45, paired with Luke Donald and Scott Piercy.

Woods has already won three tournaments this season, and has regained his ranking as the number one golfer in the world.  The odds makers have him the heavy favorite, but don’t tell Tiger that.

“I feel very comfortable with every aspect of my game. I feel that I’ve improved and I’ve gotten more consistent, and I think the wins show that,” Woods said. “That’s something that I’m proud of so far this year, and hopefully I can continue it this week and the rest of the year.”

For the first time in years, he began the season completely healthy.  He has been able to return to his conditioning regimen, allowing his entire body to work together, and it is apparent to all who have watched him so far.

“You have to make your putts,” Woods said. “You have to make the majority of the putts inside 10 feet, and you’ve got to be just a great lag putter for the week.”

No one knows it, or could have said it better.  “Getting there is half the fun”, but once on the green, that’s where tournaments are won or lost.  Tiger has regained his ‘stroke’.  He would be the first to tell fans that he has missed some he should have made, but for the most part the ball has found the bottom of the cup more often than not.

He won the Masters four times in his first nine starts as a professional, from 1997 through 2005.  In 2006, the course was changed, and he hasn’t won since.

Woods has more PGA tournament wins than every other golfer with the exception of Sam Snead.  He has more majors than everyone with the exception of Jack Nicklaus.  Since 2006, Tiger has finished in the top ten at Augusta 6 of the7 years, but has not challenged for the jacket.

Phil Mickelson, who has 3 green jackets, gave his, and those of most professionals, evaluation of Woods:

“I think that even at times where he has not played his best, you know what he’s capable of, and so you’re always looking at his score. You’re always worried about him making that big run the way he’s always done throughout his career,” Mickelson said. “And now that he’s doing it and winning tournaments in such a dominating fashion, it does have the feel of what we expect to see from Tiger.”

Will he win his 5th Masters, and have the green jacket placed on his shoulders?  Although tomorrow is only the first day of the 72 hole tournament, it may give us some insight as to the outcome.

The number 2 golfer in the world, Rory McIlroy gets a later start in the first round. He will play with Keegan Bradley and Fredrik Jacobson at 1:41 p.m.  Last week McIlroy showed the swing and form that placed him in the number 1 ranking.  Young Rory, who has yet to don his first green jacket would love nothing more than to secure a victory over his friend and fellow Nike endorser.

I always hate to agree with Las Vegas, but I believe this is Tiger’s year to conquer Augusta.  If he continues to control both his mental and physical game, no one has played as well over a four day tournament as has Woods.  I expect him to either have the lead after day one, or be no more than three strokes back.

I fully expect to see that big Tiger smile on Sunday afternoon as Bubba Watson puts the green jacket on his back.

James Turnage

Columnist-The Guardian Express

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