Can Tiger Woods Retain US Masters Against The Odds?
November 3, 2020
With the US Masters starting on Thursday next week, fans of Tiger Woods are hoping against hope that he regains his form and retains the title that he won in Augusta nineteen months ago. Woods won his fifth Masters green jacket in 2019, after a hiatus of fourteen years. Following a major decline in his form and continuing problems with back injuries over the course of many years, Woods had tied for sixth at the 2018 Open Championships and was runner-up at the PGA Championship. His subsequent win at the Tour Championships set him up for a great performance at the US Masters, when he clawed his way back into the tournament and beat Francesco Molinari in the final round.
US players have dominated major championships played on home soil in recent years and the last ten winners of US-based majors have all been Americans but, sadly for Woods, his form has been dismal since his surprise win last year and in the official World Golf Ranking he currently occupies 29th place. Bookmakers reckon that Woods will not be able to turn things around in time, with Bet365 offering the best odds of 35/1 that Tiger Woods will win the 2020 US Masters.
Why are these odds so long for the defending champion? Well, since winning the US Masters last year Woods has played in 17 events with patchy results. He had a short run of strong performances last autumn, winning the inaugural Zozo Championship in Japan, achieving a fourth-placing at the Hero World Challenge and then leading the US team to victory at the President’s Cup. But he also has had three missed cuts and a withdrawal. He has only finished in the top 10 twice. In September he missed the cut for the US Open after slipping to a seven-over-par in the second round and he performed poorly at the Zozo Championship last month, played at the Sherwood Country Club in California instead of its normal venue in Tokyo. Woods has had considerable success at the Californian club in past years. Having won his own World Challenge charity event there on five occasions and been runner-up a further five times, he knows the course inside-out but that was of little help to him as he was 70th in the field of 77 in terms of strokes gained off the tee, 71st in strokes gained tee to green, 55th in proximity to the hole, 21st in strokes gained around the green and 65th in strokes gained putting. Dreadful statistics which do not bode well for Tigers US Masters chances.
The US Masters has been postponed from its usual slot in April and the autumnal course conditions may be very different from the norm, but Woods and his rivals may find the lack of crowds – or patrons as they are known at Augusta National Golf Club – the most crucial difference.
Some players will thrive without the distractions of 40,000 enthusiastic fans; others may wilt without their support. Woods himself says “It’s going to make a big difference to all of us… We just don’t have the same type of energy and the distractions. There at Augusta National, you just have all those roars that would go up if somebody did something, somewhere, and then scoreboard watching and trying to figure out what’s going on, there aren’t a lot of big leaderboards out there, so that will be very different”.
Despite these new challenges presented by the delayed 2020 US Masters, Woods takes a positive view of his prospects this time round, saying “This will be very different. This will be a fun Masters and I’m looking forward to defending”. His caddie, Joe LaCava, is also optimistic and claims that Tiger is “certainly feeling better than the last stretch from the PGA Championship through the US Open. And that, in turn, will allow him to practice. Now he still has to put the time in and work at it. Which he will”. Golf fans will be eager to see if Tiger Woods can deliver a 72-hole performance that will challenge the bookies’ current favourites to win – Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, and Rory McIlroy. Time will tell.
The US Masters will take place on 12 – 15 November at Augusta National Golf Club, in Georgia.