As things stand Tiger Woods is a best-priced 11-1 to win the Masters, Phil Mickelson is rated a 20-1 chance. Both prices, at the start of the year, are fairly unthinkable.
All the talk at the start of the year was about their compatriots, Messrs Johnson, Thomas and Spieth, now we’re obsessing yet again about two 40-plus legends of the game who are far from finished.
Yes, says James Savage
At the beginning of Tiger’s latest comeback trail I questioned whether or not his body would allow him to play four rounds in a week. Even after it seemed his latest back surgery had been a success, I wasn’t convinced he’d be able to compete against today’s crop of golfing superstars.
But now, a month ahead of the Masters, I think it’s a case of when, not if, he can win again. And he seems to be building up a head of steam heading into Augusta for the first time in about five years.
I remember him rocking up at the event in 2015 – on another comeback from injury – massively undercooked and with no real physical or mental stability. His short game was more than a concern. Despite all that, he finished T17 – his last appearance at Augusta.
Compare that with the Tiger Woods we saw this week. He looks fit and strong and has a smile on his face – he’s enjoying himself.
And his game looks in fantastic shape too. Yes there are still some nagging doubts over his driving but his iron play, short game and putting all look like the Tiger of old.
This hasn’t gone unnoticed by the bookies with some having him as second favourite. Yes, you can say the bookmakers are being over cautious because thousands of casual armchair golf fans will jump on the ‘Tiger’s back’ bandwagon.
But there’s more to it this time around. Why wouldn’t you back a player that has won 14 major championships – four of them at Augusta – and is in very good form?
Since 1997, he’s finished in the top eight 13 times and he’s never missed a cut. In his 17 visits as a pro, he’s only finished outside the top 10 five times.
I actually think it’s harder to make a case for him not to be challenging for a fifth Green Jacket next month.
No, says Mark Townsend
Given their hugely impressive records at Augusta and their hugely impressive skills it might be worth noting that neither Tiger nor Phil has won the Masters since 2010.
They might have seven Green Jackets in their respective wardrobes but since Mickelson hit that shot off the pine straw neither have come through.
If it were a straight pick between the two I’d have to side with the left-hander despite him being five years older and, up until last week, being a non-winner since the 2013 Open at Muirfield. Tiger’s last victory came six weeks later at the Bridgestone.
I think I’d fancy Mickelson to do something special at Augusta when he’s well into his 50s, the short game makes a nonsense of some of those awkward pitches and recoveries and, in my head, he looks even more comfy than Tiger in Georgia. Compare both to how we view Rory McIlroy during Masters week, two of them have an air of inevitability about getting their names on the leaderboard, the other we’re waiting for something not to click.
Coming into 2018 we were probably expecting the Mickelson sparkle to slowly fizzle out, what we’ve got is the opposite. He could easily have won before Mexico, he’s been talking up his chances for weeks and he’s then delivered. When Justin Thomas holed that wedge we all thought that was that, Mickelson then birdied 15 and 16 and saw him off in extra time.
For someone who hasn’t tasted victory for so long, even someone of Mickelson’s super confidence, this will have loaded up the positives in his memory bank.
Tiger’s back, Phil’s back, it’s going to be huge.