Can Tiger Woods win the Masters? A question we ask ourselves every year. But is he ready to win again, just three weeks shy of the year’s first major? Alex Perry and Mark Townsend offer differing views in Alternate Shot…

Can Tiger Woods win the Masters? Yes, says Alex Perry

It’s easy to sit here and say something like, “Of course he’s ready to win the Masters – he’s Tiger freakin’ Woods”, but of course he’s ready to win the Masters – he’s Tiger freakin’ Woods.

Let’s not forget he got back in the winners’ circle at the Tour Championship and his five starts so far this season have yielded four top-20 finishes, as well as the tie for 30th at The Players. He’s hardly missing the cut and grimacing every time he hits a shot.

Instead, he’s mainly doing things like this…

And this…

He also seems to be in the best place he has been in a long, long time. Hands up who watched this at least 400 times during The Players?

For stats fans, Tiger is 7th in strokes gained, 4th in GIR percentage, and 10th in tee-to-green.

The putter remains a concern, and even those of us who can only dream of playing Augusta know that you have to putt well there, but this is the first time Woods is headed to Georgia fully fit for the first time in years.

Yes, he’s missed three of the last five Masters, but from his last win in 2005 to 2014, the first year he skipped a trip down Magnolia Lane, his record reads T3-T2-2-T6-T4-T40-T4.

But it’s all in the past, I hear you scream. And you probably would have also told me that Jack Nicklaus didn’t have a chance in ’86, and we all know what happened there.

The powers that be at Augusta don’t like it when players tear their course apart, so expect a tougher test after Patrick Reed’s winning score of 15-under last time out.

And if anyone in the field knows how to grind out a score there – or, indeed, destroy the rest of the field – it’s Tiger freakin’ Woods. Can Tiger Woods win the Masters? Yes, he’s ready.

Can Tiger Woods win the Masters? No, says Mark Townsend

If we’ve learned anything, in among all the back procedures and WDs and chipping yips, it’s that you never, ever write off Tiger Woods.

What’s the point? It’ll bite you on the arse at some point.

He’s gone, within the space of a year, from barely being able to hit a chip shot of 10 yards to winning the Tour Championship. And by that point of the year it wasn’t even close to a surprise, he had more than half a chance of winning the year’s last two majors. The speed was back, the touch was back, the brilliant CV of shot shapes were back. So when’s the next major?

Can Tiger Woods win the Masters?

Woods says that his preparations for Augusta aren’t far off in terms of playing time, he missed Bay Hill due to the neck strain but he’s confirmed that he’ll play the Match Play in Texas which will be just his fifth start in 2019.

And then it’s off down Magnolia Lane for a tilt at another Green Jacket.

Even without the back story of injuries and everything else there’s lots to like about his chances but there are now more question marks than we might have thought a few months ago.

So, can Tiger Woods win the Masters? First up he has to get his putter going, something he’s addressed by enlisting the help of Justin Thomas’s coach Matt Killen, having described his efforts on the greens at Riviera as the worst he’s ever had.

Everything will be geared towards Augusta, it probably has been since he holed out at East Lake, but you’d guess that he’d snap your hand off to have another month’s prep under the gun.

Finally, and we all know it’s Tiger and what he’s done before in this corner of Georgia, but the simple facts are that he hasn’t won here since 2005 which remains maybe his most baffling stat.

In the next few weeks we’ll hear about how he’ll compete there for the next decade. Again the stats are less promising. The last five years show a record of DNP-T17-DNP-DNP-T32.

It would take something else to translate the next figure to be a W, even for Tiger.