Why Woods Won’t Win the Masters

From “Huff’s Stuff” Arizona Golf Blog by Bill Huffman at the Arizona Golf Authority

Courtesy Masters Tournament - Augusta National, Inc.The Masters is upon us. Doesn’t it feel good?

After a West Coast Swing that weathered wind, hail and snow, after a Florida campaign that gave us (more) rain and darkness, it’s springtime in Augusta, Ga., the home of the Masters. And for the first time in a long time, it really is spring in the South, which is just coming out of harsh winter, although gusty winds and thunderstorms appear to be the strongest possibility for the first two rounds of this week’s tournament.

Oh, yes, and for the first time in what has seemed like a really long time (or a little over two years), Tiger Woods enters the Masters as the No. 1 player in the world, a privilege he once held for 12 consecutive appearances in this annual romp through the dogwoods and azaleas.

Yes, Planet Golf seems to be once again aligned on its axis, which means that despite the last of Tiger’s four green jackets coming way back in 2005, he’s the heavy favorite again.

According to the bookies in Las Vegas, Woods is 5 to 2 to win the season’s first major, meaning if you put up $2 on Tiger to win you’ll earn $5 if he does. Even for Woods those are pretty staggering odds for a favorite in Vegas. By comparison, Woods’ purported nemesis, Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlory, the No. 2 golfer in the world, is next best at 8 to 1, with three-time winner Phil Mickelson at 10 to 1. Everybody else is 20 to 1 or higher.

Heck, Woods is commanding 10-to-1 odds if he wins by at least five shots, and you’d think those odds would be higher. There also are 16-to-1 odds available for him chipping in at No. 16, like he did at magical Augusta National in ’05, as well as 16 to 1 to go wire-to-wire.

If you’re thinking about betting him to finish in the top 10, my best advice is to forgetta-bout-it. At 1 to 4 you can only make $1 for every $4 you wager.

Really, for not having won a major in almost five years, and the last one came at the 2008 U.S. Open for Tiger, those are some overwhelmingly strong numbers for the guy who is chasing Jack Nicklaus’ 18 majors while stuck at 14 and counting.

But here’s a news flash just in: Despite all the pretournament hype, I don’t think it’s going to happen. Not that I haven’t been wrong about Tiger before, especially at the Masters.

Remember, Tiger has won only four of the 15 Masters he’s entered as a pro (three more as an amateur), and that’s without every really giving one away. True, he already has three wins this season, but his other three outings included two finishes in the 30-something range and a missed cut. If anything, his season can be characterized as hot or cold.

Besides, no one really ever wins the Masters; the Masters wins them. (With the exception of Nicklaus, of course!) That Bubba Watson overcame Louie Oosthuizen’s double eagle at No. 2 in the final round of last year’s tournament with an equally ridiculous shot of his own on the very last hole (out of the woods, no less) is added proof that you just never know what player will emerge when it comes to the Masters.

I mean, Martin Laird, the Scotsman from Scottsdale who won the Valero Texas Open on Sunday to punch the last ticket to Augustaville, has as good a chance as Tiger. Or how about Lefty, who is playing in his 20th Masters? He usually does pretty well around there after finishing T3 last year?

Personally, I’d stay away from the Tiger Woods bets and not simply because the odds aren’t worth it. Yes, he’s playing fantastic, leading the statistical categories for putting, eagles and scoring average (68.33), the perfect combination to get the job done. But it just doesn’t add up when it comes to the unpredictable nature of this major that is played out in the tall Georgia pines.

Here are three good reasons why I wouldn’t bet on Tiger – the competition, the distractions and the fickle nature golf, especially at the Masters.

First of all, there are at least 20 players who could win this besides the aforementioned McIlroy, Mickelson, Oosthuizen and Watson. They include Keegan Bradley, Stewart Cink, Fred Couples (no, I’m not kidding), Luke Donald, Jason Dufner, Padraig Harrington, Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Charl Schwartzel, Brandt Snedeker, Steve Stricker and Lee Westwood.

Any of those guys could beat Woods, which I would, well, bet are the real odds for Tiger’s chances at the Masters – 20 to 1. And you could probably add great players like Ernie Els or Adam Scott, as well as past champions like Angel Cabrera and Vijay Singh, to that list of those capable of catching a Tiger by his tail.

As for distractions, not surprisingly Woods is back to his old tricks, trying to snub the media whenever possible. Still, is it a good idea to refuse an interview with Sports Illustrated when the magazine is making you the cover story for an unbelievable 21st time? It’s just one of several sensational topics that could get on Woods’ nerves as the week plays out. (Besides Lindsey Vonn being his new girl friend, that is.)

And then there’s the nature of the game, which is the favorite seldom wins, although Woods has done his best over the years to disprove that notion. Or as a colleague once said to me about picking winners when it comes to golf: “It’s not predictable, like football or horse racing.”

Naturally, few people are buying into my theory on why Woods won’t win the Masters. In fact, Steve Stricker, Tiger’s good buddy, told the Golf Channel that Woods all but has this green blazer locked up.

“It looks like he has a ton of confidence with that putter,” Stricker said after playing a practice round with Tiger on Sunday.

“We talked about pitching and chipping. I asked him what he tries to do. It’s mutual. He’s the best player in the world, No. 1 again. So it’s fun to bounce things off of him.”

Sorry, Tiger, it’s not going to happen, winning for a fifth time. I am absolutely, most definitely and, well . . . probably, maybe sure about this. Or let’s just say I’m playing the odds.

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