Tiger Woods is back.
After playing an 18-hole practice round at Augusta last Tuesday, and practicing again last Thursday, Woods announced he is ready for this week’s 79th Masters Tournament. Woods, who has not played competitively since withdrawing from the Farmers Insurance Open on Feb. 5, announced a leave from the game the following week to work out the issues with his game.
Woods, who missed the 2014 Masters, was not required to commit as he is an invited player and the event has no alternate list. The club traditionally announces its tournament groupings on Tuesday, two days prior to the start of the Masters.
Pros and Cons of Tiger Woods Playing the Masters
Pro: He can only exceed expectations
Think about it. The lasting image of Tiger Woods is the career high 82 he shot in January, followed up by his withdrawal on the 12th hole of the first round the next week with back stiffness. He hasn’t played a competitive round of golf since. When he does play this week, many will expect him to be awful. They’ll watch to see if his short game yips doom him. So certainly, Tiger, who hasn’t won a green jacket since 2005, can only exceed expectations, especially with so many doubters.
Con: His game is not 100% yet
There’s just no way Wood’ game is ready for a major championship. If it was, then he would’ve played already in a recent tour event. Tiger skipped the Arnold Palmer at Bay Hill, where he’s won eight times.
“I’ve put in a lot of time and work on my game and I’m making strides, but like I’ve said, I won’t return to the PGA Tour until my game is tournament ready and I can compete at the highest level. I hope to be ready for the Masters, and I will continue to work hard preparing for Augusta,” said Tiger.
Since then, Tiger still hasn’t played, skipping both PGA stops on the Texas slate. If he was truly ready to return, he would have before Augusta.
Pro: Familiarity with Augusta
Tiger needs to go to a place where he will always be welcomed. He needs to go to a place he knows as well as any course on Earth. Augusta National Golf Club will always open its doors to Tiger, and has ever since his first major victory, at 21 in 1997, when he won by 12 shots. So unless he’s not 100% physically, the Masters is as good a spot for his return as any.
Con: He can’t win
Even if Tiger is 100% physically and mentally, and his game is in a better place, he still isn’t going win this week. There’s just too many players on the top of their game right now that make it unrealistic to think Tiger is going to come in after this long layoff and win his fifth green jacket. Take your pick – Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson, Henrik Stenson. Reports have surfaced that Woods shot a 2-over 74 during his practice round last Tuesday, and that his short game was still a mess. Let’s face it, he’s not winning the Masters.
Pro: His 2010 Masters showing
After the 2009 Thanksgiving weekend nightmare of his own doing, Tiger came to the Masters having not played in a tournament all year. So what did he do? Tiger shot 68-70-70-69 and finished tied for fourth. His game is in a far different place, but Woods is as headstrong as they come. If he thinks he can compete in 2015 because of what happened in 2010, then he’s going to play better than people think.
Con: Pressure from sponsors?
Nike recently released scripting for all its players, and of course included outfits for Tiger at the Masters, even before his official announcement. Nike has a lot invested in Tiger, so hopefully his decision to play is for the right reasons, and not because he faces sponsor pressure to do so.
Pro: Ratings, ratings, ratings
When Tiger didn’t play in the Masters last year because of back surgery, the ratings plummeted. For the two days of ESPN’s Masters telecasts, the sports network averaged a 1.6 U.S. household rating and 2.2 million viewers – both numbers off from last 2013 averages of 2.5 rating and 3.5 million viewers. Over the weekend on CBS, the Masters earned a 7.8 rating for Sunday afternoon’s final round. The 7.8 rating means that 7.8 percent of American households tuned into the Masters during that time. The ratings were down 24 percent from the 2013 Masters finale.
Con: He could get hurt again
The worst case scenario possible is that Tiger Woods re-injures himself. Watching this play out on national TV in front of the whole world would be devastating for golf, and for Tiger. The 14 time major winner missed last year because of back surgery to repair a fixed nerve. Back spasms have been an issue for two years now, and it’s why he hasn’t played since the Farmer’s Insurance Open. There’s no doubt that Tiger should come back to competitive golf at some point. But doing so at the Masters and potentially getting hurt again? The risk just isn’t worth it.