Much of the Masters talk so far has looked at the chances of Tiger Woods winning his fifth green jacket. I’m writing this just before he starts his first round. Here’s my take on what I think he’ll need to do to win, which of course reminds me of a story. It’s not about Tiger, it’s about Nick Faldo.
Faldo got himself an audience with Ben Hogan in Ft. Worth, Texas. He’d been looking forward to speaking with Hogan for a long time, and had an important question for him. Faldo wanted to know what it would take to win a U.S. Open. He was looking for a secret, perhaps, some key to winning that major.
Hogan’s secret was, well, not a secret.
“Shoot the lowest score,” he told Faldo. Okay, then. Faldo never did win a U.S. Open.
So Tiger will need to shoot the lowest score to win the Masters. But what else? Any questions? Yes, a few.
Will Tiger’s short putting be strong? There’s no way anybody gets around Augusta National’s heaving greens without having to make critical putts, and by that I mean the putts that keep a round going. Tiger’s putting has come around recently, but it’s not as sharp as it’s been over the years. His lag putting will be tested, as will his short putting. If he makes the putts inside 10-feet, look out.
Will Tiger have the distance control on his short irons? He’s been hitting the ball further as his work with Sean Foley has solidified to the point where he’s playing instinctively again, not thinking about swing positions. He’s playing golf, not golf swing. But now he’s in one of the four tournaments for which he wants to peak every year: the majors, that is.
He’ll need to keep the ball under the hole as much as possible. A 20-foot uphill putt is preferable to an 8-foot downhill putt. He’ll need to keep his approach shots on the wide part of the green from where the hole is cut, and to use Augusta’s slopes to run the ball near the hole when he wants to get aggressive.
All this said, we’ll also learn whether Tiger is healed from his leg and tendon problems. Augusta is hilly. It’s a hard walk, and it’s also wet from heavy recent rain. Bay Hill in Orlando, where Tiger won his seventh Arnold Palmer Invitational two weeks ago, is flat. Augusta has a lot of elevation change, right from the start.
And that’s what Tiger is about to do: Start his quest for his fifth Masters and 15th major. Here’s hoping the weather holds. Here’s hoping this one comes down to the back nine on Sunday. Everybody’s saying it could be and should be and will be an epic Masters, because there are so many storylines.
There are, and we start with Tiger. What else is new?
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Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada’s Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round’s on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein