COMMENTARY I The Masters doesn't begin until April 11, but the golf world is already focusing its eyes on Augusta.
This is hardly a new phenomenon, of course, but the anticipation is heightened this year because of the recent efforts of one Tiger Woods, whose play has been attracting attention of late
Woods' victory at the recent Arnold Palmer Invitational was his third this year and the 77th PGA Tour victory of his career. It also put him back atop the world rankings.
It was at Augusta National Golf Club that Tiger Woods truly became Tiger Woods by winning the 1997 Masters at age 21. It's hard to grasp the fact that that was 16 years ago.
The record Woods has compiled, one that includes 14 major championships (including four Masters titles) is truly extraordinary. But he hasn't won a major championship since 2008 and, amazingly, hasn't won a green jacket since 2005.
And the view from here is he won't win one this year, either.
Woods will be the favorite in the eyes of a lot of people, but there are factors working against him. Leaving his off-course issues aside, time has extracted its inevitable toll.
Woods is 37 years old now and his body is feeling the effects of his nearly two decades as an elite athlete. His driver often takes him east to west rather than north to south; through March 26, he was ranked 24th on the PGA Tour in driving distance but just 142nd in driving accuracy.
The real question mark for Woods, however, is his putting. At Bay Hill, he looked like the Tiger of old, rolling in birdie putts from points far and near.
But he was never under serious pressure during the final round and in his two previous wins this season at Riviera and Doral, he seemed less than focused down the stretch.
We're not dismissing what Woods has accomplished already in 2013. But an unanswered question remains.
Does he still have the ability to handle the atmosphere of a major championship? To fight off a challenger or challengers over the last nine holes and all the way to the finish?
A decade ago the answer to that question would have been obvious. But that is no longer the case.
Since Woods last won a major, and certainly since he last won at Augusta, a new group of challengers has emerged who respect his record but are not in awe of it or of him.
We still think Tiger Woods will win another major two. But the 2013 Masters will not be one of them.
Rick Woelfel resides near Philadelphia and edits the Womensgolfreport.net web site. He's picking Matt Kuchar to win the 2013 Masters.
- Sports & Recreation
- Tiger Woods
- Augusta National Golf Club