Tiger Woods Needs Bounce-Back Week at Honda Classic to Gear Up for Masters

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIFebruary 27, 2013

MARANA, AZ - FEBRUARY 21:  Tiger Woods looks on from the 17th green during the first round of the World Golf Championships - Accenture Match Play at the Golf Club at Dove Mountain on February 21, 2013 in Marana, Arizona. Round one play was suspended on February 20 due to inclimate weather and is scheduled to be continued today.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

With only two other PGA Tour events scheduled between now and the year's first major, it's vital that Tiger Woods gets some quality reps in the heat of competition—beginning with a strong showing at the Honda Classic this week.

The Masters Tournament looms in April, and it is an event that Woods has been remarkably consistent at. However, for a player of his caliber, he has been disappointed and continued to fall short, failing to snag a green jacket since 2005.

In the previous six years, he was a staple in the top-six at Augusta, but Woods finished 40th in 2012. That was just the beginning of his reemergence, though, and he has shown more consistency and flashes of the old dominance that used to define him.

But aside from the victory at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, it hasn't exactly been an active start to Woods' 2013 season.

A missed cut kicked things off in Abu Dhabi—his first MC in a European Tour event—and Charles Howell III also bounced Woods from the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship in the opening round.

That result was particularly shocking, given the history between the two golfers that Golf Channel's Jason Sobel alluded to.

That loss meant that Woods has now had a grand total of four full competitive rounds on the PGA Tour thus far. Although there is still plenty of time ahead of the Masters in April, it is important that he gets back on track.

Since moving to the PGA National course in Palm Beach, the Honda Classic's profile has been raised as one of the more important stops on Tour. Last year's thrilling final round featured current top-ranked player Rory McIlroy ascending to No. 1 for the first time by staving off a scintillating 62 by Woods, who ultimately fell two strokes short.

If that last round is any indication, there is plenty of reason to believe that Woods can get it done.

The problems that have plagued Woods early in the campaign have been his consistency off the tee. After a marked improvement in driving in recent years, he has begun to miss fairways on a more consistent basis.

What is most encouraging about Woods' game is his putting, though. In his limited action on Tour, he has converted 21 of 49 birdie opportunities (h/t PGATour.com). That 42.86 percentage is from a relatively small size, but it is still top in the PGA.

It will be of optimum importance for Woods to shake off the aforementioned loss to Howell and start this three-week stretch of play in style.

Whether it's a duel with McIlroy to get into the winner's circle or just showing steady improvement throughout the week, Woods needs some positive momentum after a stunning setback in Tucson.

This three-week stretch that does not include him defending his title at Bay Hill's Arnold Palmer Invitational is a bit of a deviation from his previous scheduling strategy. It remains to be seen whether it will culminate in major No. 15 for one of golf's living legends.