Tiger Woods Update & A Preview to the 2012 Masters
The PGA season is now officially under way after Tiger competed in his first tournament of 2012. Sure the golf season actually started 3 weeks prior, but until Tiger proves he can’t win again the spotlight will continuously be on Woods. Regardless of performance he is still one of the most popular athletes in the world. But let’s take a moment to examine Tiger’s only performance of 2012 thus far.
In his first competitive round of the year Tiger shot a 70 in Dubai. Two under par is certainly nothing spectacular but still a great starting point for Tiger as he tries to return to dominance. He then followed the 70 up with a 69 and 66 in the second and third rounds before faltering in the final round. His final round 72 featured some ball striking issues but his putting was looking great. I think this weekend showed us two things when it comes to Tiger Woods. First of all he is making strides and his swing looks much better. We can confirm that he still has all the tools to be the best in the game. We also know that he needs to learn how to win again. After all he has been through its easy to understand why his mental toughness might not be what it once was. It is clear that the killer instinct we saw for all those years is a little bit timid these days. The massive humbling that Tiger has faced the last 2 or 3 years has put him in an uphill battle, but look for a great year from Woods in 2012.
Now that the PGA season is in full swing the golf community can’t help but to start looking at the 2012 Masters. This year the Masters will be held from April 5th- 8th, which is only a 65 days away. So in a just 2 short months the players will be lining up to tee off in the 76th annual Masters Golf tournament at the famously beautiful Augusta National.
According to pgatour.com, there are currently 93 players that have qualified for this year’s Masters. It is important to note that 4 of those players will have to remain at amateur status in order to compete. There is still opportunity for other golfers to qualify before the Masters but at the moment we are just under last year’s total of 99 competitors. For those of you who don’t know, here are the ways you can qualify for the Masters:
· Masters Tournament Champions (Lifetime)
· U.S. Open Champions (Honorary, non-competing after five years)
· The Open Champions (Honorary, non-competing after five years)
· PGA Champions (Honorary, non-competing after five years)
· Winners of the Players Championship (Three years)
· Current U.S. Amateur Champion (6-A) (Honorary, non-competing after one year); Runner-up (6-B) to the current U.S. Amateur Champion
· Current British Amateur Champion (Honorary, non-competing after one year)
· Current Asian Amateur Champion
· Current U.S. Amateur Public Links Champion
· Current U.S. Mid-Amateur Champion
· The first 16 players, including ties, in the previous year’s Masters Tournament
· The first 8 players, including ties, in the previous year’s U.S. Open
· The first 4 players, including ties, in the previous year’s Open Championship
· The first 4 players, including ties, in the previous year’s PGA Championship
· The 30 leaders on the Final Official PGA Tour Money List for the previous calendar year
· Winners of PGA Tour Regular Season and Playoff events that award at least a full-point allocation for the season-ending Tour Championship, from previous Masters to current Masters
· Those qualifying for the previous year’s season-ending Tour Championship
· The 50 leaders on the Final Official World Golf Ranking for the previous calendar year
· The 50 leaders on the Official World Golf Ranking published during the week prior to the current Masters Tournament
Coming into the 2012 Masters it would be hard to pick a favorite but at this point it looks like it will probably be Rory McIlroy. He looks good early and his monumental collapse at the 2011 Masters should have him motivated and focused for the 2012 Masters. If Rory can get his first green jacket this year it will be the first time a European has won the Masters since Jose Maria Olazbal in 1999. Besides Rory I would say “Lefty” has the next best chance to win this year. Phil already has 3 green jackets and is the most recent golfer to reach that milestone (2004, 2006, & 2010).
*Tiger was the last to win back-to-back Masters (2001-02).
Tiger will return to the Master’s not as the reigning champ for the sixth consecutive year. Seems hard to believe but it also indicates just how high our expectations are for this generations best golfer. Tiger is a 4 time winner at the Masters and needs only two more victories to tie the “Golden Bear” Jack Nicklaus. There was a moment when it seemed inevitable that he would easily get to 6 and most likely surpass Nicklaus as the most accomplished Masters performer.
*Tiger’s last win was in 2009 and his last major championship was in 2007.
Now there is a major challenge in front of Tiger to make it 6. Who knows how important that milestone is to Tiger but I do know that Tigers wants to win and he needs to win. The golf universe is ready for Tiger to take hold of the sport he dominated for so long. I think the only question now is can he do it? The first true test for any golfer is the Masters, but this will truly be the first true test in Tiger’s quest to regain dominance and fulfill his destiny to become the greatest golfer ever.
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