Tiger Woods is back. It’s almost like he never left, and his two-stroke win over a trio of first-class younger players plus the self-destruction of Francesco Molinari gave the Masters a compelling finish. It was a must-see even if you aren’t a Tiger fan.
Not mentioned by the CBS TV coverage is the fact the purse was increased this year to $11.5 million up $500,000 from the last two years which meant Woods take for his 15th major was a record $2,070,000 or $90,000 more than Patrick Reed last year and Sergio Garcia in 2017.
It has been pointed out, perhaps with some significance, the Masters is not run by the USGA and as is true week to week on the PGA Tour there were no rules controversies. That may be a cheap shot, but the proof will come at Pebble Beach in June and when the USGA-run U.S. Open is held.
Prior to the 83rd bestowing of the green jacket Augusta National Golf Club further strengthened its connection with amateur golf exemplified by the club’s co-founder Bobby Jones with the first Women’s Amateur Championship. The finals were played the previous Saturday followed on Sunday with the Drive, Chip and Putt competition for 80 youngsters in four age groups.
Along with the Wednesday par-3 contest these events are each important in their own way but merely the preamble to six amateurs and 81 pros teeing it up on Thursday.
One of what many at the time considered a “reality lapse” occurred prior to the start of the tournament when oddsmakers had Tiger Woods listed at 14 to 1 to triumph, the same guess as Justine Rose’s chances (missed cut) but less favored than Rory McIlroy (T21) at 8 to 1. The kicker though is someone placed a bet on Woods to win at those odds, plunking down over $80,000 for a payout of more than $1 million.
Having no significance at all was the new logo Woods displayed on his pre-tournament shirt, a depiction of his tiger headcover he calls “Frank.” That along with his on-course gum chewing each day merely gave the media something else to talk about.
What can we take away from this years Masters? Several things starting with the long ball hitters didn’t win. Tony Finau led in driving distance and finished in a tie for fifth while Woods averaged 10 yards less in 44th spot which in fact was two yards less than the field average. Nor did Woods putt lights-out having 120 putts over the four rounds earning another 44th place with the field averaging more than one-half a stroke per round better. What we can say is, though his driver accuracy was not tremendous at 62.5% (T47) his greens in regulation was superb at 80.56% (1) and with 22 birdies he was only three behind Xander Schauffele who had the most with 25.
It proves again as it has in the past and contrary to what those who say the ball goes too far, being able to hit the ball on the green and make a score wins more often than not.
We also were shown how vulnerable Augusta National is when played in soft conditions and little wind. The lack of firmness on the greens allowed many shots that would have been long gone to hold. The greens rolled much slower taking away at least some of the usual terror of previous years. Woods score of -13 was 1.4 shots lower than the average of the past 10 Maters but one stroke higher than Patrick Reed’s 2018 win.
It goes without saying next month’s PGA Championship at Bethpage Black can’t come too soon to give Tiger a crack at his 16th major.