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Thursday, April 9, 2015

What I Expect from Tiger Today

Ever since Tiger announced last Friday that he would be playing in the Masters, there have been no end of opinions about how he's going to do... or if he even should be teeing it up. And by Wednesday night the debates had heated up even more.


Let me give you a slightly different view of what has happened so far in Masters Week than the TV announcers are giving, and let's see if we can make a guess about what may happen today.

On Monday morning, Tiger followed his normal pre-major routine. He showed up in the wee hours of the morning before many patrons were out, got his work in and vanished before...

Oh, wait. That isn't what happened at all, is it? Not hardly.

Tiger showed up in the middle of the day, after the course had filled up with patrons and TV cameras. He calmly walked through the competitors, stopping to hug and talk with many of them, before setting up right in the middle of the practice area where the TV cameras were aimed, cranked up some music and started to boogey down and hit chips all over the place. Then he joined old buddy Mark O'Meara and played 9 holes, goofing it up with the gallery as he did.

But on Tuesday, Tiger went back to his old practice routine...

Uh, no he didn't. Again he showed up when the galleries and cameras were out, worked on his short game then played 9 more holes with O'Meara. This round was more serious than the first but that was to be expected with Thursday drawing near.

On Tuesday afternoon Tiger did his presser, which Brandel Chamblee called a tour de force, saying Woods was "almost charming" and that it was a home run. Tiger didn't shy away from questions and even talked at length about the frustrations of almost having it, only to have it slip away again.

Well, on Wednesday he must have...

Apparently after Tuesday's Champions Dinner Tiger approached Ben Crenshaw -- who you know by now is playing his final Masters -- asked who he was playing with (Jordan Spieth), and asked if he could join them.

And so it was that Tiger Woods joined one of the most high-profile practice rounds on Wednesday morning, played with them amidst the throngs of patrons and cameras, and then -- for the first time in a decade -- joined in with Fred Couples and Steve Stricker to play in the Par-3 Tournament with his kids as caddies. You realize that everybody knew ESPN would be broadcasting live, don't you?

Tiger shot -3 (T6) for the day, just two shots off the winning score on greens that most players agree are a bit tougher than the regular Augusta greens. That's why so many players play in the event! Tiger's sense of touch on his putting seems very good, based on what I've seen.

So it sounds to me that Tiger did his best to put himself in every remotely pressurized situation that the first 3 days of Master Week provides -- and according to GC's Todd Lewis, who followed Tiger virtually all 3 days, Tiger never hit a bad chip shot.

So what do I expect from Tiger's first round back at Augusta?

Typically Tiger shoots 70 or worse in the first round. (In his four wins he has three 70s and a 74.) He's only shot one or two rounds in the 60s, and I believe those were 69s.

Augusta National is a par-72 course. If he can just play reasonably consistent golf, all he needs are two birdies and then average par for the other 16 holes.

Do I think Tiger is -- pardon the pun -- out of the woods yet? No. He simply hasn't had enough time to eliminate all of his swing problems. But I do believe he's reached the outskirts of the forest and can finally see the clearing ahead.

I think Tiger has a 70 in him today... and I wouldn't be surprised if he somehow manages a 69. Let's see if his preparation was sufficient to pull it off.

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