Welcome to Teeing Off, where Devil Ball editor Shane Bacon and national columnist Jay Busbee take a day's topic and smack it all over the course. Suggest a future topic by hitting us on Twitter at@shanebacon and @jaybusbee. Today, with all the hype going on about Tiger Woods' golf game, we discuss if there is anything left holding him back.
Busbee: With his third win in 2013 and sixth in just over a year, it's pretty obvious that Tiger Woods is, by any sane definition, "back." Yes, he's got to win majors, of course, but you could say that about anyone. So let's bury that "Is Tiger back" question in a pot bunker. The question we have to ask now is, what are the weaknesses in Tiger 2.0? What, if anything, is going to hold him back in his newly energized pursuit of Jack Nicklaus?
Bacon: The interesting thing about Tiger's week at Bay hill is he drove the ball rather poorly, all things considered. According to the PGA Tour Twitter, Woods hit the lowest amount of fairways (53.57 percent) of any winner of the Arnold Palmer Invitational since 1980, even missing one fairway with his go-to stinger with the iron that never seems to miss anything but the sprinkler system. If Tiger is putting the way he's been rolling the rock I'm not sure it matter how he hits it off the tee, but with the added length and rough at Augusta, isn't it going to really hurt Woods if he can't find fairways?
Busbee: This is the question that will haunt Woods until he wins another major, the roadblock that keeps the die-hards from saying he's "back." Woods was all over the course at Bay Hill, and if he gives away a stroke a day with poor placement at Augusta, he'll be slamming the trunk while someone else is getting fitted for a green jacket. So what's your take on how he should address this? Bombs away, or work within his errant limitations?
Bacon: I just don't think that Augusta National allows you many chances to just bunt a shot here or there with the added length, and if he's hitting just over half his fairways there, I think it can be tough for him to score. My question goes beyond this to a point a lot of people have been making about Tiger at the Masters; can he work the ball right-to-left with enough comfort to find the fairways needed on those holes that call for that shot (like, for instance, No. 13)? We know he has the cut shot all day long, but this golf course is one that makes you work the ball to your left, and it's the exact reason Lee Trevino will never be at a Champions dinner while three leftys in the last 10 years will.
Busbee: I have to believe that Tiger's putting is going to get him out of more trouble spots than his poor tee work and un-shaped (is that a word?) drives will get him into. We've said it before--put aside the whole "putt for dough" mantra, if Tiger has putting as his foundation, he'll be in the conversation. Woods appears a safer bet at Augusta than at any time since 2008. He's reclaimed two key weapons that have been lacking for so long: his putter and his will. It's my belief that with those in his pocket, he's in for one hell of a year. You?
Bacon: I totally agree. I think trying to find stuff wrong with Tiger's game is virtually impossible at this point, but Augusta isn't the course it used to be and finding fairways is more important than the old days with no rough and sub-7,000 yardage. If the putter that was in Florida travels to Georgia he will be absolutely fine, but I'm sure even Tiger would admit that finding a few more fairways would definitely help his chances for another green jacket.
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