When Tiger Woods hit his tee shot on No. 16 in the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open the ball missed rolling into the cup by inches, and fans let out a roar that reminded the golf world the 42-year-old’s comeback might have some legs this time. Woods elicited several cheers in his four rounds tying for 23rd in his first full-field event since his fourth back surgery.
“Very pleased,” Woods said after Sunday’s round. “I fought hard for these scores. These weren’t yawners … down the middle, on the green, two?putt and one?hand all your second putts in the hole. I had to fight for every score on every hole and sometimes those are more pleasing than the boring rounds. It showed that I had heart. I fought my tail off and it was good stuff.”
That finish might be a sign that putting a bet down on the 14-time major championship winner to capture the Masters in April might not be a bad move. The odds are certain to only go down if he continues progressing in the next two months as he tries to ready his game for Augusta.
Currently sportsbook.ag has him as an 18-1 long shot to capture his fifth green jacket. Before Woods played in the limited field Hero World Challenge in December he was 50-1 to win the Masters. After a decent showing where he finished middle of the pack the odds dropped to 15-1. If Woods continues to play well he might move up the board.
Why Woods Will Win
This is the most forgiving course of the four major championships and if Woods has some issues with finding the fairway he won’t get as hurt as he would at the other three events.
Another factor is his familiarity with Augusta National. He is comfortable there and knows the course. That is a big advantage and would play to increasing his confidence.
His short game continues to improve, especially his putting and if the flat stick is working at the Masters he will be in the mix on the final day.
Why Woods Won’t Win
He has played in one full-field event and did not have one round in the 60s. For as impressive a tournament Woods had in San Diego he needs to fine tune his game in the next two months and that might not be enough time for him to be fully ready for the first major championship of the year.
The one stat that stands out that needs immediate improvement was his greens in regulation. Woods hit just 58 percent of the 72 greens at Farmers and that number has to get better or Augusta National will eat him alive. That tournament is all about hitting your approach shots in the right spot on the greens and bogeys can add up quickly if that part of his game is not sharper.
Nerves could get to the former No. 1 player in the world. If he plays the Masters it will be the first time since 2015 when he finished tied for 17th. It’s hard to believe Woods would have the jitters but nerves could affect his quest for his 15th major.