Now that an especially bad winter appears to be largely in the rear-view mirror for much of the American Midwest and Northeast, that means it's time for
golf fans there to start dreaming of getting on the course again. It's part of the reason why the Masters is so popular in those areas -- it's the first
sign of spring (azaleas and all), and all the amateur duffers know they will be back on the links soon as well.
We all know by now that Tiger Woods only cares about major tournaments and that the Masters is No. 1 on the list. We also know that Woods hasn't won a
major since the 2008 U.S. Open and hasn't won at Augusta since winning green jacket No. 4 in 2005. Some might say that Augusta has been Tiger-proofed, but
it's not like Woods hasn't contended since then. In fact, since that '05 victory Woods has finished outside the Top 6 just once: a 40th in 2012. That said,
Tiger hasn't broken 70 at Augusta National since a final-round 67 in 2011 helped him to a fourth-place finish. In Tiger's four wins at the Masters, he has
been first (1997), second (2001), third (2005) and fourth (2002) after 36 holes. He has never won any major without owning at least a share of the lead
heading into the final round.
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Bovada has Masters odds out
, and Tiger is the co-6/1 favorite for odds to win the Masters with Rory McIlroy. Why would anyone believe that Tiger could win this year? He's no Patrick
Reed. Woods had to withdraw in his final round at the Honda Classic two weeks ago at PGA National. That was a shame considering Tiger shot 71-69-65 in the
first three rounds.
Last week at Doral, a course he has owned, Tiger got everyone excited when he followed rounds of 76-73 with a third-round 66, but Tiger apparently tweaked
the back early on Sunday. He shot a final-round 78 to finish T25. He didn't have a single birdie, only the ninth time that has happened in any PGA Tour
round for him and a first in the final round. It was also his worst-ever round at Doral. Since the start of last year, Woods has recorded a Sunday round in
the 60s just three times. He doesn't look anything like the guy who won five events last year and was the PGA Tour Player of the Year. Could all that
weightlifting Tiger did to get all buff a few years ago be the cause of these back problems? There's a reason you don't see any ripped pro golfers.
I certainly wouldn't put any money down on Tiger until seeing how he plays next week at Arnold Palmer's tournament at Bay Hill, probably his favorite
non-major event. He is the defending champion and has won the event eight times overall. As things stand now, Tiger is planning to tee it up as it would be
his final Masters warm-up, and he idolizes Palmer. It's worth asking if Tiger should stop playing competitive golf until Augusta, however. One thing
potentially working in Tiger's favor is that the other active player who thrives at Augusta, Phil Mickelson (14/1), also is struggling in 2014. My early
pick? Jason Day (14/1, who was third last year, one of three Aussies in the Top 4. Of course Adam Scott (also 14/1) was the winner.
Woods might have won last year's Masters if not for that memorable penalty assessed for a rules violation he unknowingly committed on the 15th hole Friday.
He was hit with a two-shot penalty after his round for an illegal drop as he dropped a few feet behind his divot after hitting into the water on 15. You
are supposed to drop as close to the divot as possible. Many believed he should have been disqualified. Champions Tour player David Eger called in the
violation when he saw it, and it obviously helped he had a Masters rule official's phone number.
Tiger was allowed to stay in the tournament because of a 2011 rules change that says a player who signed an incorrect scorecard can be assessed penalty
strokes afterward instead of disqualified because all the facts concerning the issue were not known when the card was signed. I tend to agree with that new
rule and think viewers calling in penalties is utterly ridiculous. There is a new rule this year that TV viewers can no longer call in moving-ball
penalties. That also happened to Tiger at last year's BMW Championship. It's obviously not fair because Tiger is always on TV.
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