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Once again, Tiger Woods is the favorite at Augusta National as he seeks his fifth green jacket and 15th major championship.
Why He'll Win the Green Jacket: Honestly, have you seen this guy play recently?
He’s putting like he did when he won his first Masters title in 1997 (that would be wicked, by the way). He’s driving the ball like he did in winning back-to-back green jackets in 2001 and 2002 and is back to beating down par fives as he has during every one of his 14 major championships.
Yet when it comes down to it, it’s putting that rings the bell at Augusta, and Woods has been answering it with the flat stick since the PGA Tour made its East Coast turn nearly two months ago. Woods ranks No. 1 in putting, third in birdies made and first in eagles (PGATour.com), and that spells big trouble for the rest of the field this week.
Yes, Tiger needs to find fairways and control his distance with the irons, but when he’s consistently making putts from 10 to 15 feet on the treacherous greens of Augusta National, he simply ends Sunday wearing green over red.
Why the Green Jacket Will Elude Him: It’s the driver that can derail Tiger at almost any moment.
Even with the lack of rough and dearth of water hazards (especially on the front nine), plenty of trouble looms at Augusta, and Woods has managed to find his fair share since the last time he won here in 2005. That trouble has typically been the result of wayward drives that eliminate the opportunities for birdies and makes par a challenge at best.
Slows starts also have plagued Woods recently at Augusta National.
Only three times has Woods opened with a sub-par round since his 2005 victory, and only once has he broken 70 during that span (Augusta.com). When Tiger starts fast, the field notices; when he starts slow, the field’s confidence grows.
The Smart Money: Tiger should win his first major since 2009 and tie Nicklaus’ mark of five Masters titles in the process. There’s a Nicklaus record Woods wants even more, and a victory this week will get him one step closer to that magic 18 major victories.