Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Will you be rooting for Tiger Woods to win
Or, like many I believe, will you be rooting for anybody but Tiger to win at
As polarizing as the guy is - and since LeBron James has become a good guy and
fan favorite again and Ray Lewis retired - Tiger's probably the most polarizing
athlete going without question. Heck, I don't even know who might be second.
But you have to give him a ton of credit because so many "experts" wrote him
off as being finished and anointed a bunch of others - Rory McIlroy, Dustin
Johnson, Luke Donald - to take his place atop the golf world.
None of them did for long and Tiger has worked his way back to No. 1, dusting
off the rest of the field like he's done seemingly forever.
But can he do it again on the game's biggest stage? Can he amp it up and be the
old Tiger for four pressure-packed rounds?
Let's take a quick look at what has happened since he last put on the green
jacket on a Sunday evening in April.
The last time he won at Augusta was in 2005 at age 29.
That was way before any of his injuries and way before he got busted for his
And long before he creamed that fire hydrant at the bottom of his driveway
which helped alert the world what was going on after he left the golf course.
Then he got divorced. Now he's apparently hooked up with skier Lindsey Vonn.
The Masters victory in '05 was his ninth major win. He added five more after
that, the last coming at the U.S. Open in 2008 when he beat Rocco Mediate in a
playoff while limping on a bad knee.
He's still four short of tying Jack Nicklaus for the most majors won, and he'll
be 38 in December.
But he's still the guy the odds makers think will tame Augusta yet again. And
it's hard to bet against him.
When you consider there are only two golfers under age 40 who have won more
than one major (Tiger with 14 and McIlroy with two), it's even easier to think
he'll do it.
The fans at Augusta - oops, I meant the patrons - will be pulling for Phil
Mickelson, and CBS will be praying (yet again) for a Tiger and Phil final
pairing on Sunday. But if Phil falters along the way, who else is going to give
Tiger the biggest challenge?
Not long ago, we would have said McIlroy. But since he took over as No. 1, all
he's done is crumble. Yes, Nike paid him zillions (like they do Tiger) to
become the new face of golf, but one wonders if those folks at Nike
headquarters in Oregon aren't now a bit worried about that investment. Yes,
yes, he made a nice run last Sunday at the Valero Open, but that was the Valero
And what of defending champ Bubba Watson? We haven't heard much from him since
he hit that wild approach in the playoff to beat Louis Oosthuizen.
Lee Westwood? How long have we heard how he'll break out and win multiple
majors and become a dominant force?
A long time is how long and he's still trying to win his first.
Luke Donald? See Lee Westwood.
Maybe Justin Rose. Actually, I think with the way Rose is playing, he could
hang around for a while and be a threat.
Matt Kuchar might be a guy who could be dangerous. The galleries at Augusta
love him dating back to when he was the low amateur at the Masters in 1998 and
couldn't stop smiling. He's consistent and doesn't rattle easily. The pines
would reverberate with roars of "Kooch" if he makes a run and that would be fun
Brandt Snedeker could really use a major win. The guy is darn good, like Bill
Haas, but needs to get over the hump. Both of these guys also could be in the
But that's about it. The field for the Masters isn't as large as it is for the
other majors and there are only a handful of guys who could win it.
Heck, if I were a betting man, I'd go with Tiger, too.
Drew Markol has been a sportswriter and columnist for several Philadelphia-area
newspapers for over 25 years.
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