It goes without saying that Tiger Woods is far from the dominant player he once was.
So how can he possibly be a 4/1 favorite to win the Masters this weekend?
Does one PGA Tour victory really warrant that type of treatment? Does he really have a chance to win his first major since 2008?
Yes and yes.
Woods won the Arnold Palmer Invitational less than two weeks ago against a tough field, and he did it while leaving more than a few opportunities out on the Bay Hill course.
The fact that he won is reason enough for the field to fear Tiger at Augusta National. But the fact that he won by five strokes without playing his best golf means that Woods has got a lot more to give.
And he's headed to a course he can dominate like few others.
Remember, Woods finished fourth at the Masters each of the past two seasons, and both times he came into Augusta having struggled. So if he can finish top-five there while not having played well in the lead-up to the season's first major, what can he do after having won just two weeks prior?
He can win it.
Associated Press golf writer Doug Ferguson likes McIlroy to win it, despite his stunning collapse during the final round at Augusta last season. He picked Donald to finish second, ahead of Woods.
Surely anything can happen in a major golf tournament. Woods is 36 years old, having struggled through injuries and a major swing overhaul the past couple of years, in addition to off-the-course problems that turned his personal life into an ongoing tabloid saga.
But, as we've seen little by little, Woods' swing is coming back around, the changes he put in place finally becoming fluid and natural. His putting is improving; he's not quite the killer on the greens that he once was, but he's also been more consistent of late. If Woods is beginning to feel settled and at peace between his ears -- and his victory at Bay Hill would seem to indicate that he is -- then all the other pieces should continue falling into place for him.
With 14 major championships under his belt, Woods appears poised to continue his run at Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 majors. He last won the Masters in 2005, giving him four titles at Augusta National.
And he appears to be in great shape to make it five this weekend.
- Tiger Woods
- Augusta National