[Click on infographic to view full size]
Not so long ago it felt like the phrase ‘Tiger’s on the prowl’ would only ever be used in relation to his nocturnal activities. But, in recent weeks, it looks like the Californian has managed to keep it in his pants for long enough to work on his golf swing. After a series of encouraging performances, his win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational showed he’s once again a force in world golf.
The next major question on his road to redemption is if Tiger will need to make room at his bachelor pad for his fifth green jacket. There are reasons both to support and doubt his case for Major win number 15. Tiger has set records for the quality and consistency of his play on course, but his numbers away from the Bermuda rye grass are almost as impressive/concerning.
Things have also changed markedly on course. In his prime, Phil Mickelson was about the only person capable of catching Woods on a regular basis. But Tiger faces at least half a dozen players with multiple tournament wins to their names. Luke Donald is the current owner of the World No1 spot on which Tiger appeared to once have a monopoly. He hasn’t yet lost his Major winner virginity, but Donald’s consistency on tour has made him a popular choice with punters. He’s been close enough to victory at Augusta before to suggest he feels comfortable amongst the azaleas and pink dogwoods and he’ll be a real threat to Tiger.
Rory McIlroy is another danger. He went wire to not quite wire in last year’s Masters, but the effect of his spectacular last-round collapse hasn’t left any lasting damage. As dreadful as it was to see him butchering his way around Augusta that Sunday, he did go into the final day with a four-shot lead. You get the impression the slightly older and wiser shaggy-haired one will be able to close it out if he gets such a lead on this occasion. Westwood, Rose, Mahan and a whole host of others have also been in good form of late and they can’t be easily dismissed.
There are plenty of players to watch out for but eyes will fixed on Tiger for the majority of the time. If he was to win another Masters, this would no doubt be the most satisfying. And by the looks of it – the most hard-fought.