Should you put money on Tiger at The Masters?
I’m just going to come out and say it. Tiger Woods could be parading a fifth green jacket on Sunday night.
The more I look through the stats, the more I am convinced the 14-time major winner will at some point add another digit to that total.
And the more I feel he’s absolutely worth the best-priced 18/1 that is out there on him triumphing once again at Augusta National.
I can sense the veritable scoffing among the audience. Even now, you only have to type his name into twitter to see a chorus of naysayers still trying to say he’s finished.
Come back to us when he’s won a tournament, is the reply now. I’m sure, should Tiger fail, there’ll be a huge amount of hindsight sprayed all over my social media accounts.
But ever since his performance at the Honda Classic, when he finished 12th, I’ve felt it’s a matter of when – and not if – Tiger wins again.
He has only strengthened that feeling with consecutive top 5s at the Valspar Championship and the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
It’s not just the finishes that have excited me, it’s the way he has been performing in crucial aspects of the game that are only going to help him at Augusta.
Everyone knows the Georgia cathedral suits him down to the ground. Not only has he won four times, he’s also finished in the top 10 on a further nine occasions.
Although people may point out he hasn’t claimed glory since beating Chris DiMarco in a playoff in 2005, seven of those nine top 10s came after that last triumph.
He’s also shown that he can perform in the face of adversity here. His tied fourth in 2010, in his first tournament after the sex scandal that engulfed his private life, is arguably one of the most impressive performances of his career.
His worst finish since 2005 is tied 17th three years ago, his last appearance at The Masters, when his body was on the verge of completely breaking down.
We know what you need at Augusta to perform.
You’ve got to putt well – and especially lag putting.
From 17 measured rounds on the PGA Tour this season, Tiger ranks 13th on the PGA Tour in putts from 20 to 25 feet.
From three feet, he has been deadly and has made every one of the 173 attempted so far.
At four and five feet there is more cause for alarm but, overall, from inside 10 feet Woods has performed admirably since his comeback.
We also know you’ve got to hit the right spots on the greens. We’ve seen enough highlight reels to know Tiger’s irons game is on point but the figures only back this up. He’s 15th on the PGA in strokes gained approach-the-green.
I feel strokes gained is a much more accurate way of measuring performance than putts taken or greens in regulation.
So it’s also significant that in scrambling, another enormously important aspect in ensuring success at Augusta, Woods ranks seventh – gaining more than half a stroke on the field.
Yes, his driving continues to be suspect. But we know that to win at Augusta, you don’t necessarily have to be the greatest off the tee.
While Danny Willett and Jordan Spieth excelled in the accuracy category in their triumphs, Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera both won despite hitting fewer 60 per cent of their fairways.
Woods will need to improve on his 51.61 per cent stat in this area, but not as much as you might think.
The rough is virtually non-existent at Augusta. There’s plenty of opportunity to find a shot even if you do run off line – just look at Phil at 13 in 2010.
What Tiger will need to avoid is the kind of drive he hit off the 16th on the final day of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Of course, you can fit stats to any situation and there are plenty of others in Tiger’s performance – particularly regarding par 3 and par 5 scoring – that can be used to down this argument.
But adding what I’ve seen of Tiger with my own eyes, I’m confident he can put in a good show at the year’s opening major.
Remember, it’s a small field (87) and as many as half – either because they are amateurs or former champions past their prime – have no chance of featuring.
I’ll certainly be backing him each way, with Betfred’s current 14/1 for the first eight appealing.
The near even money on him to finish in the top 10 (13/8 with Unibet) looks eminently feasible.