By Ann Liguori
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Let the games begin! In one of the most anticipated Masters ever — with the resurgence of Tiger Woods as the top-ranked player in the game — the question as Woods gets started on Thursday morning at 10.45 a.m. is whether he can sustain his fine play. Woods has won three events this season and six tournaments in the past 16 months. Can he win his fifth green jacket and his first major title since the 2008 U.S. Open at Torre Pines?
Woods will tell you the reason his “A” game’ has re-emerged is because he has been consistently healthy for the first time in a long time, which has allowed him to practice.
“Once I started to be able to practice things turned, and they turned quickly,” Woods said.
Yes, the swing changes he made with Sean Foley have settled in. But the key has been his putting. His putter has been as hot as it was when he dominated golf earlier this decade.
When he won the WGC-Cadillac at Doral, Woods took the fewest putts over four rounds of his career — 100 putts! When he stands over an 8-10 foot putt, his confidence and mindset is back to where it was when he dominated the game early in this decade. He expects to make each one of them. His putting and short game have really come together since late last year.
In addition to his solid putting, Woods’ personal life is finally in harmony. He is smiling more, laughing more and looks more at ease than he has in a long, long time. In Tuesday’s press conference, Woods said, “Well, I think life is all about having a balance; trying to find equilibrium and not getting things one way or the other. And I feel very balanced.”
Woods wouldn’t expand beyond that. I asked his PR person Glenn Greenspan if Woods’ girlfriend, Lindsey Vonn, will be here this week, and Greenspan said “no comment.” Whether she shows up or not, you can tell that Woods is happy and content.
He has been focusing on being a good father. Apparently the custody issues involving ex-wife Elin Nordegren and their two children have been ironed out, and that could be one less distraction.
The recent Nike spot which says “Winning takes care of everything,” is a phrase that Woods has pointed out, and he’s been saying it from early on in his career.
As much of a favorite as Woods is this year, any number of players could steal the attention these next four days. Rory McIlroy is eager to win his first Masters and is coming off a second-place finish this past weekend in the Texas Open. Phil Mickelson, as up and down as he is, is fully capable of rekindling the magic of his three previous wins here (even with his wild “Phrankenwood” driver that looks like a three wood). And some of the guys who have yet to win a major could be a threat: the determined Ian Poulter, Justin Rose and Lee Westwood are just a few.
No matter how great Woods is playing coming into this Masters, you just never know if he will indeed be back in that familiar Butler Cabin.
One thing is for sure, though. Between Thursday and Sunday, Woods will give it his best shot.
And when Woods is at his best, there’s no one in golf who can stop him!
Will Tiger take home his fifth green jacket? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments section below…