We are officially one week away from the first tee ball hitting what looks like will be the cold air at the 2014 Masters – and a man that won’t even be on property is still dominating the talk ahead of the tournament.
Of course, that man is Tiger Woods. The four-time Masters champ won’t be playing next week, missing his first Masters as a professional.
Yet, our staff has plenty of opinions about what the future holds for Woods at Augusta National – with plenty of folks on opposite sides of the fence.
Let us know how you feel below – or use #Golfweek on Twitter!
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Will Tiger win another Masters?
JIM McCABE: No. His ferocious length advantage is gone and your putting doesn’t improve as you grow older. Plus, with Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, and Jordan Spieth on the rise, the competition will be too young, too deep, too often.
JEFF RUDE: Yes. He hasn’t won there since 2005, remarkably an 0-for-9 streak after four Masters victories. And, yes, he doesn’t dominate there anymore with his driver, since the golf course has been tightened with major changes for the 2002 and 2006 tournaments. And he doesn’t putt as well as he used to. But he’s a regular in the top 6 there and he’ll squeeze at least one out over the next decade. He won five times on Tour at age 37, an indication that he’s hardly done. And doctors say he should make a full recovery from back surgery.
ALEX MICELI: I’ve been consistent that Woods would not win another major, so it’s an easy answer. So much has changed since he won his first in 1997 – the course, his health, his priorities, equipment and the depth of field. Just don’t see it happening, but like Jack, he could back into one.
BETH ANN NICHOLS: Yes. Too many athletes have experienced successful recoveries from this type of procedure to count him out. Woods, 38, is thinking long-term now regarding his injuries rather than push past the pain in the present. That indicates he’s in it for the long haul, putting the odds back in his favor.
ADAM SCHUPAK: Yes. It’s still the major most suited for the current state of his game. Augusta is a second-shot course, and that’s his strength. He can’t get away with a wild driving game there like he could before the course was “Tiger-proofed,” but he’s been in the hunt consistently often without anything resembling his ‘A’ game. As for the back, Lee Trevino won a major after multiple back surgeries, Fred Couples has had multiple chances to grab another coat despite his back ailments, and Tiger will too.
JAMES ACHENBACH: It is unlikely Woods will win another major, Why? Too many talented young golfers. Too many missed putts by Tiger. I believe his inability to read greens is his biggest liability right now. Professional golfers often start encountering visual gremlins in their mid 30s. Age is not Tiger’s friend.
NICK MASUDA: Yes, he will. There are a lot of folks out there who are critical of Tiger – just look at a comment board or social media during one of his rounds – but don’t count me among them. Is it shocking that he hasn’t won one since 2005? Yes, it is. But the guy is one year removed from winning five PGA Tour tournaments and is one bad drop/hit of the flagstick away from being in control at Augusta last year. Golf smarts don’t all of a sudden stop at the age of 38.
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If he stays at four, be honest: How wrong were you? How many did you think he was going to win?
JIM McCABE: Regarding Jack Nicklaus’ record, I always went back and forth on Woods and the quest to surpass 18 majors but never the six green jackets. Thought that was the lock of locks, that he would easily tie him with six.
JEFF RUDE: More wrong than a broken clock, because a broken clock is right twice a day. Woods won his four Masters titles at age 29. So Jack Nicklaus’ half-serious forecast of 10 green jackets didn’t seem far-fetched at that point. I would have bet a lot of money in May 2005 that Woods would break Nicklaus’ record of six Masters titles, getting to at least seven. But that’s a tall order now because Woods will be 39 the next time he plays a Masters.
ALEX MICELI: No question when he won in 1997 the thought was he could win a considerable amount. But again that was before they “Tiger proofed” the golf course, which clearly they’ve done a good job of. Also in 1997, the equipment was so different and Tiger was far above his peers, but when you put the new equipment in player’s hands it leveled the playing filed considerably. If you kept the status quo of 1997, he would have won many more.
BETH ANN NICHOLS: I’ve always thought Woods would pass Jack. And given how quickly he took to Augusta, I assumed he’d pass Nicklaus’ six Masters titles. I figured he’d will himself to seven, if only to one-up Jack. Keep in mind that Nicklaus’ Masters victories spanned from 1963 to 1986. Woods has plenty of career left, body willing.
ADAM SCHUPAK: After winning three in a five-year stretch between 2001 and 2005, I’d have booked him for eight. Glad I didn’t make that bet.
JAMES ACHENBACH: I thought Woods would win seven or eight Masters titles, surpassing the six by Nicklaus. After Tiger took the 1997 Masters by 12 strokes, I figured he might win 24 majors. He was a physical and mental colossus. As we now know, real life got in the way.
NICK MASUDA: I thought we might see Tiger get all the way to 10 green jackets. Now, that probably makes me sound naive, but he was built for the course – at least initially. So, I guess that makes me more wrong than anyone on this list.
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Of the eight Masters he has played since his last win, Woods has finished second twice, third once, and T-4 three times. Which of those might haunt him the most?
JIM McCABE: Easy, 2011. It had all the makings of his greatest Masters win, seven back at the start of Round 4, eagle at 8, out in 31, shocking he was tied for lead early on the back. But he three-putted 12 for bogey and missed a 5-foot eagle try at the 15th. Without those hiccups, who knows if his name atop the board would have shaken Charl Schwartzel.
JEFF RUDE: Woods has said the toughest loss of his career came at the 2006 Masters, the first of the winless streak. He three-putted six times, thrice on Sunday, and finished three strokes behind Phil Mickelson on a course that had been stretched to 7,435 yards with six longer holes. Three weeks later, his father, Earl, died. “(No loss) was like that because I knew my dad would never live to see another major championship,” Woods said last spring. “I pressed and tried to make putts (Sunday) instead of just allowing it to happen.”
ALEX MICELI: The 2013 Masters has to haunt him the most because he was on cruise control and it had been a long time since he was in that mode. The mistake he made by hitting at the flagstick and then the improper drop took all the wind out of his sails. It may be the closest he will get to another green jacket in his career.
BETH ANN NICHOLS: 2007. Woods eagled the 13th and it looked like a quintessential fairytale finish was in the works for a third consecutive major title. Instead, he parred in to lose to Zach Johnson by two strokes. With a final-round 72 and 3-over 291 total, Woods for the first time as a professional at Augusta had failed to break par for the week. Looking back on the week though, Woods said he “blew this tournament” with bogey-bogey finishes in two previous rounds.
ADAM SCHUPAK: Hard to say but I’d go with the first in 2006. Tiger had a case of the three-putts, as in six of them for the tournament and three on Sunday. He lost by three to Phil Mickelson . . . and that probably ruined whatever he was served for dinner that night.
JAMES ACHENBACH: 2007 and 2008 were killers for Woods. He posted back-to-back runner-up finishes, each time with a final round of 72. For Tiger, 72 at Augusta National is like 90 for you and me. Sure, the scorecard says par 72, but effectively the par is 70 for Tiger – in his mind, Nos. 13 and 15 are nothing but tough par 4s. So he hacked his way to 72 and lost by two to Zach Johnson in 2007, then repeated his failure the next year and lost by three to Trevor Immelman. Tiger Woods is not supposed to lose the Masters to guys named Zach and Trevor. He probably has recurring nightmares about these two years, despite the reality he was playing on a bum leg that ultimately required surgery in 2008.
NICK MASUDA: I’d say 2011, as the place was rockin’ and rollin’ when Tiger blitzed the front nine and caught the leaders. He had a chance to post something low, sit atop the leaderboard and let the rest of the field feel the pressure cooker that is the back nine at Augusta National. But uncharacteristic misses proved costly and it showed a few chinks in his armor, which we weren’t used to seeing on Masters Sunday.