Keys for Tiger Woods to Capture 5th Green Jacket at 2013 Masters
The four-time winner of this world-renowned event hasn't had the success fans have come to expect on golf's biggest stages since winning the 2008 U.S. Open.
Even three wins to kick off a wonderful season to date does not guarantee success for Woods at the year's first major, as Kelly Tilghman of Golf Channel points out:
This is 4th time Tiger Woods won 3x heading into Masters but he hopes to win Masters for 1st time in any of those yrs #onamission— Kelly Tilghman (@KellyTilghmanGC) April 5, 2013
In order to capture his fifth green jacket and 15th major overall, there are several aspects of Woods' game that shaped his previous invincibility that will loom as large as ever this coming week. There are also some scoring trends to watch for if Woods means to be in the hunt next Sunday.
Here is a breakdown of the keys for Woods as he pursues his fifth title at golf's mecca.
Note: All statistics, unless otherwise indicated, were found on PGATOUR.com.
Putting from Inside 10 Feet
A lynchpin of Woods' dominance has been his uncanny ability to hole out clutch putts at the most critical times. That is how he has historically been able to get the most out of his play even when he doesn't have his A-game.
Especially with how Woods has been combating loose drives and being out of position off the tee, he will encounter several testy par putts of this length throughout the week.
Following Woods' most recent romp at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, ESPN's Justin Ray highlighted just how unprecedentedly well Woods was stroking it on the greens:
Tiger Woods: +3.89 strokes gained putting per round this week (led field). Previous career best was +2.34.— Justin Ray (@JRayESPNGolf) March 25, 2013
If the Woods of old has truly returned and is once again ready to triumph at major tournaments, plenty of these will fall to keep him right in the thick of contention. A putting lesson from Steve Stricker has helped Woods immensely, and has been the primary reason he has won the past two tournaments.
From five to 10 feet, Woods is 35-for-55 in 2013, which is a pretty impressive display of flatstick mastery. Similar success must be found on the lightning-fast, table-top greens of Augusta.
Rolling the rock has clearly not been a problem for the living legend at regular PGA Tour events, but let's see how he fares under the spotlight in Georgia.
Capitalizing on Par-Fives
Another vital ingredient of Woods' remarkable career has been success on the longer holes. Before courses were lengthened to essentially accommodate Woods' wide margins of victory, he could overpower everyone he played against and hit virtually every par-five in two.
Who will be the greatest threat to Woods at The Masters?
That's not the case anymore. One of the many aspects that makes The Masters so exciting, though, is that all the par-fives—with the exception of No. 8—are almost always reachable in two shots.
There are generally generous landing areas for tee shots on this hole, which should help Woods set up good angles to take cracks at the green under regulation to bid for tournament-changing eagles.
Woods is making birdie or better on over 64 percent of par-fives this season—the best on Tour.
From his maiden major triumph at Augusta in 1997 until 2003, he ranked first in that statistic each season, and was never outside the top five until 2010.
His ownership of those holes has perceptibly been reasserted. It will be up to Woods to exercise wise course management and capitalize on these golden scoring opportunities to get a leg up on his elite competition.
This is a rather broad, blanket statement, but it applies to Woods in a variety of ways. At the final three majors in 2012, he put himself in contention heading into the weekend, only to falter on each occasion.
It's obvious that shooting good scores on the weekend is a must to win the green jacket, but the element of finishing also applies to each individual round that Woods will play at Augusta National.
Before the cut in 2013, no one has a better scoring average than Woods, and he doesn't let up much in Round 3. It's the Sundays that are giving him trouble, as he ranks 118th on Tour with a stroke average of 71.75—nearly three shots above his overall average.
Although it has been a wildly successful campaign for Woods thus far, those type of numbers are uncommon for arguably the best closer in the history of the sport. He will have to combat those late slip-up tendencies to snag major No. 15.
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