Forget what will Phil do next? The more intriguing question is: What’s the next trick up Tiger’s sleeves?
Tiger’s opening-round 70 a year ago at Augusta National en route to making the cut was one of the most impressive rounds of 2022 when you consider that it was just some 13 months earlier that he was involved in a near-fatal car accident and could have lost his right leg.
Tiger’s game looked sharp in the first round of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera in February, his lone start in an official PGA Tour event since missing the cut at the British Open in July. It reinvigorated talk about the possibility of a 16th major title for Woods, who has slipped into the winner’s Green Jacket on five occasions, most recently in 2019 at age 43.
Tiger’s quest to get closer to Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 majors (and six Green Jackets) already has the TV talking heads buzzing. Here’s a snippet of what the CBS, ESPN and Golf Channel analysts had to say:
Brandel Chamblee, Golf Channel
How Tiger plays, I think, will captivate us beyond belief.
Notah Begay, Golf Channel
The fact that he was able to play (at the Genesis Invitational in February) at the level after basically being on the bench for six months, to come out and make a cut, I just can’t even get my mind around that.
Andy North, ESPN
To be able to get around there is so difficult. It’s just — for him it’s such an uphill battle. But in the back of your mind, you still believe that you get something rolling, you just never know.
Curtis Strange, ESPN
It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he got us on the edge of our seat for the first couple of days, but can he sustain it? I think that L.A. kind of just made me look forward more to the Masters because he’s still got something in that body.
Trevor Immelman, CBS
If he somehow finds a way to get his name in and around that leaderboard come the second nine on Sunday afternoon it will be all systems go out there.
Scroll below for their takes on Tiger at the Masters.
Brandel Chamblee, Golf Channel
Tiger Woods plays his shot on the 13th hole during the second round of the 2023 Genesis Invitational in Pacific Palisades, California. (Photo: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
How Tiger plays, I think, will captivate us beyond belief, because what I saw earlier in the year from Tiger made me look towards the Masters with great anticipation. I never, ever thought I would see Tiger Woods play golf again the way he played at the Genesis.
Of course you can look at his finish (T-45) and say there was nothing spectacular about it, but if you look at the combination of the power that he had there and so many of the iron shots that he stacked up on top of one another, and the fact that he showed some great putts on the greens, it certainly has the world of golf’s attention as we enter the Masters.
Notah Begay III, Golf Channel
Tiger Woods hits from the third hole tee during the final round of the 2023 Genesis Invitational in Pacific Palisades, California. (Photo: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
The fact that he was able to play at the level (he did) after basically being on the bench for six months, to come out and make a cut, I just can’t even get my mind around that. I know he’s Tiger Woods, but it is the PGA Tour, and a high degree of play is required to compete at that level…For him to go out and do that tells me a couple things, that he’s working on the right things.
He’s told me that there are certain shots that are not available to him anymore because of the stress that it does possibly put on his back, on his leg, so he’s had to sort of eliminate a handful of shots that just kind of don’t fall in line with trying to maintain the sustainability that he has to have.
He can still win. I mean, let’s not forget that. It’s not a question of ability. It’s a question of can he get through 72 holes and still maintain some strength and mobility in his leg on that final day. I think that’s the biggest question.
He was very tired after L.A. Took him a few days to recover. Coming out of that, I think he got a good sense of, okay, just how hard he could push himself going into the Masters in preparation and just kind of how to pace himself during the week, and I think you’re going to see a nice measured preparation next week when he does arrive on the grounds as he just tries to figure out when and where to push himself.
Andy North, ESPN
Tiger Woods hits from the 18th hole tee during the first round of the 2023 Genesis Invitational in
What we saw out of him at Riviera, his golf was quite good, and it looked like physically he was better than the last time we had seen him, and that was important.
But you’re talking a whole ‘nother animal at Augusta National, to be able to get around there is so difficult. It’s just — for him it’s such an uphill battle. But in the back of your mind, you still believe that…you get something rolling, you just never know.
Would it be an amazing story if he could play well and be around on the weekend? Yeah, it would be. But I think people appreciate the fact that he still makes a huge effort to try to be great, and I think that’s the beauty of sport.
If you’re going to go out there, you try to do the best you can. I’m looking forward to seeing how physically he can handle the week.
Scott Van Pelt and Curtis Strange, ESPN
Tiger Woods hits from the second hole tee during the first round of the 2023 Genesis Invitational in Pacific Palisades, California. (Photo: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
Van Pelt: At this stage of his career, (we) recognize the physical challenges that he must deal with, and that limits a whole lot of freak-out beforehand. But let him put together two or three. Let him stuff one on 6, roll it in, bomb one on 7, have the hole location where it rolls back down tight. Now it gets to 8, the easiest hole on the course. Let him make three in a row. Then what happens? Then you start going, hold on now, hold on now. That’s all it takes. All it takes for anybody, and I would — I won’t speak for Curtis and Andy. Those guys are players, I never was. But it doesn’t take a whole lot for any of us to start thinking, well maybe, what if kind of a thing.
So he’s not under the radar, I just think that we maybe have reached a point where because there’s so much talent, so much young talent that’s playing well that we would reasonably list those people ahead of him in terms of who we believe is likely to win.
That’s not the first thing that will be discussed is Tiger, but again, Thursday, let him go out and put two or three like he did at Riviera, three or four together, it wouldn’t take a lot for him to be right there front and center on the radar, right?
Strange: So he birdies three in a row, he gets by 9 and 10, struggles at 11, makes a good par putt, then he’s got 13 and 15. Next thing you know, the golf world is abuzz. Yeah, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he got us on the edge of our seat for the first couple of days, but can he sustain it? I think that L.A. kind of just made me look forward more to the Masters because he’s still got something in that body.
Tiger Woods on the practice range ahead of the final round of the 2022 Masters. (Photo: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports)
What I find is that as he’s about to tee off on Thursday, because he’s played such brilliant golf over the years, everybody still thinks, wow, can he still turn back the clock one more time like he did in 2019? It starts off like that from a pure competitive standpoint to see can he really win? If his game tails off a little bit then that nostalgic side really kicks in and you can feel the respect from the fans and the patrons in this case at Augusta National. If he somehow finds a way to get his name in and around that leaderboard come the second nine on Sunday afternoon it will be all systems go out there. The electricity and the atmosphere will just be second to none.