The Masters is always a highlight of the golf calendar, but this year’s edition has an added bonus for golf fans with the return of a legend. At the age of 42, Tiger Woods is returning to Augusta National for the first time since 2015, and more significantly, is back in form.
Golf fans who check out the betting markets on Stakers will be eagerly watching his form over the next few days, but at the moment, Woods is rated generally as second or third favorite to win in Augusta, a victory that would be his fifth, taking him to second in the all-time Masters winning lists, one place behind Jack Nicklaus.
Many golf pundits had predicted that his career was effectively over in recent months. Tthough he had made a strong comeback from the initial hiatus caused by his much-publicised marriage problems in 2009-10, a recurring back problem that required operations in 2014 and 2015 appeared to have dealt a final blow to his chances of returning to the top of the sport. By the time of the 2015 Masters, he had dropped to 104 in the world rankings. By May 2016, he had slipped outside the top 500, and last July, he was down to 1005.
However, 2018 has seen a remarkable resurgence in his fortunes. Starting the year with a ranking of 656, he has climbed steadily, securing top-ten finishes at the Hero World Challenge, the Valspar Championship, and the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and ahead of the WGC Matchplay at the end of March, he was ranked 105 in the world. Given his previous dominance of this event, which he won four times between 1997 and 2005, it is understandable that golf fans are excited, and there is every chance that Woods could win.
For a start, though the game seems to be dominated by younger players such as Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, age is not a barrier for Woods. While he seems to have been around forever, and can legitimately be considered a veteran, it’s worth noting that his great rival Phil Mickelson was 43 when he won the British Open. In any case, Woods has always been a golfer who defies what is expected.
A more significant barrier to success could be his lack of recent experience of putting on bentgrass surfaces, but he will have plenty of time to adjust to the pace of the Augusta greens, and one of the key factors in his recent climb up the rankings has been the accuracy of his putting, an aspect of his game that is nearly back to the level that he reached in his prime.
His iron play has also been impressive this year, and he has shown the sort of control and accuracy that once defined his green approaches. Above all, he has more experience of winning Masters than any current player, along with the talent that once made him the world’s most famous sportsman. There is every reason to hope that Tiger will once again shine at Augusta and will be pulling on the famous green jacket for a fifth time.