Do Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Tiger Woods Deserve to Be 2014 Masters Favorites?

Mike DudurichContributor IMarch 25, 2014

Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy definitely deserve to be Masters favorites.
Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy definitely deserve to be Masters favorites.Rob Griffith/Associated Press

One of these things is not like the other.

Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott and Tiger Woods are being mentioned prominently as favorites in the Masters, the first major championship of the season.

Two of those guys deserve to be in that conversation. One does not.

In 2011, McIlroy was the leader at Augusta National through 63 holes.

He followed that crushing experience on the back nine with T40 and T25 finishes the last two years. Those are hardly the kinds of numbers that would generate a great deal of confidence in McIlroy and his chances.

But his game is definitely on the upswing (he's posted a pair of top-10 finishes this year), and he's definitely much closer to the guy who was once the best player in the world, according to Official World Golf Rankings.

McIlroy is hardly perfect, as he showed in blowing a win at the Honda Classic with another back-nine meltdown.

Adam Scott became the first Australian to win the Masters last April. He did so with power, grace and finesse and was great under pressure.

It's true there hasn't been a successful Masters defense since 2001-02 when Woods was making the PGA Tour his personal playground and gold mine.

Scott hasn't turned out to be one of the players (see Bubba Watson) who win a big tournament and then put their game in neutral and become non-factors in majors.

He finished 2013 with a pair of wins in Australia and has played well in five PGA Tour starts this year. True, he blew the seven-shot lead he amassed in the Arnold Palmer Invitational that featured an ugly display of putting.

He's definitely worthy of being listed among the favorites.

And that brings us to the one who isn't like the other two: Tiger Woods.

To put him in proper perspective, there needs to be a two-part discussion.

The first part involves his play and how that has created the record he's posted thus far this year.

Woods is off to the worst start of his 18-year professional career.

Not counting his own tournament (Northwestern Mutual World Challenge), his results read: T80, WD, T25. The tie for 25th came in the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship and only 72 players were in the field.

He started his year in the Middle East and, in one start there, finished T41.

This is a man who is No. 1 in the world and has been for a long time. As a matter of fact, a whole generation of golfers probably think that spot is his forever.

Woods hasn't won a major championship since the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, the one he earned playing basically on one leg because of knee and leg injuries. This is a man who at one point was cruising along in overdrive as he climbed Mt. Jack Nicklaus and his record 18 major victories.

Woods is now a man who has somehow lost the keys to his vehicle and has been stuck in neutral for almost six years.

And yes, I know he won five times last year on the PGA Tour. And yes, I hear you when you cry that if his approach shot on the 15th hole at Augusta National last year had not hit the stick and caromed into the water all of this talk would have disappeared.

I respond this way: If I were a foot taller, I could be a power forward in the NBA. But that didn't happen. Woods' bad luck did happen, and that's just the way it is.

Here's the other part of the discussion: his health.

A look of disbelief from Tiger Woods after his approach shot hit the flagstick on 15 and caromed into the water in last year's Masters.
A look of disbelief from Tiger Woods after his approach shot hit the flagstick on 15 and caromed into the water in last year's Masters.Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

I'm having a little trouble with the logic of making a man with a bulging disc in his back and "bring you to your knees" spasms one of the favorites for a major championships.

Have you watched him play recently?

He's wincing, he's grimacing, he can't fully commit to a lot of shots because he knows what's coming once he makes contact with the ball.

And yes, he found a round of 65 on Saturday in the Honda Classic and a 66 on Saturday at the Doral Championship. Where those came from, who knows. Obviously those spasms had been calmed sufficiently for those four hours.

But the Masters is not Doral. Augusta National has reduced healthy men with their games in order to tears.

Augusta National is a place Woods has owned over the last 10 years. He has eight top-10 finishes and owns four green jackets.

But that's when he was healthy, when he had all the complexities of his swing worked out.

Is all of this to say Woods is incapable of getting his stuff together in the next two weeks and finding a way to win that fifth green jacket?

Absolutely not.

We have all learned through his career to never count him out. He's capable of spectacular things.

Just because he is, however, doesn't mean he's an automatic favorite in a major like the Masters.