Scott Michaux

Sports columnist for The Augusta Chronicle. | ScottMichaux.com

Michaux: Woods victory only adds to Masters hype

Monday, March 26, 2012 2:59 PM
Last updated Tuesday, March 27, 2012 12:54 AM
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The only thing this Masters Tournament buildup was missing to send it into warp drive was a Tiger Woods victory smile.

Tiger Woods won at Bay Hill to end his 30-month drought on the PGA Tour and add more excitement leading up to the Masters.   JOHN RAOUX/ASSOCIATED PRESS
JOHN RAOUX/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Tiger Woods won at Bay Hill to end his 30-month drought on the PGA Tour and add more excitement leading up to the Masters.

So much for that omission.

With a declaration of “pure joy” and a similar unprintable exclamation, Woods issued a storm warning that things could get crazy at Augusta National next week.

While fans stampeded behind him on the 18th fairway at Bay Hill, Woods broke a 30-month victory drought in official tour events with a convincing five-shot statement over recent nemesis Graeme McDowell. It was so unequivocally reminiscent of his former glory that longtime critic Johnny Miller went from saying in February that Woods’ best was behind him and he’d never catch Jack Nicklaus’ major records to sending the opposite message from his NBC pulpit on Sunday.

“Watch out, boys on the PGA Tour,” Miller said. “Tiger is back.”

That’s great news for golf and even better news for the Masters. Because Woods is only a piece of the high-end quality that is sweeping through the golf world at the moment.

Half of the top 16 players in the world rankings have won in 12 weeks on the PGA Tour this season, including the past seven consecutive weeks from Phil Mickelson in Pebble Beach to Woods at Bay Hill. Four more have finished runner-up on tour.

Stretch the results of those guys across the world back to the first week in December and the numbers improve to 12 wins and eight runner-ups, including the likes of Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood.

McIlroy, who won four weeks ago at PGA National, is the only one in the world with more world ranking points gained this season than Woods, and he relishes the idea of taking on Tiger.

“I’d love to have a lot of battles with him coming down the stretch, and it would be great to be able to do that at Augusta,” said McIlroy, who edged Woods at PGA National.

Woods and McIlroy will be getting most of the focus when the world turns its attention to the season’s first major, but the depth of contenders is deeper than ever. If you have to settle for the fourth pick in your Masters pool, you’d be satisfied with whichever favorite fell in your lap.

For starters there is three-time champion Mickelson, who obliterated Woods in a head-to-head duel at Pebble Beach and then lost in a three-way playoff the next week at Riviera. Mickelson is spending the early part of this week in Augusta practicing before making his usual advance tune-up in Houston.

“This is kind of where the Masters run starts,” Mickelson said before finishing 24th at Bay Hill. Though he hasn’t broken 70 since the first round at Riviera, he’s never been more comfortable with the most important tool in his bag at Augusta.

“My putting’s been unbelievable,” Mickelson said. “I feel great with the blade. So I’m not worried about the putter and feel like the short game is there.”

The fourth favorite is actually the No. 1 player in the world. Donald very nearly buried the Par 3 jinx last year when he tied for fourth, but he’s been the most consistent golfer in the world over the past two years. While everyone was busy celebrating McIlroy as the new No. 1, Donald reclaimed the crown two weeks later with a playoff win in Tampa.

“I don’t think many people thought I could do that all over again this year,” he said of a season when he spent the most weeks at No. 1, won money titles on the two biggest tours and claimed the Vardon Trophy and player of the year titles. “You know, hopefully I can prove them wrong.”

The green jacket – or any major spoil – is the one thing that still eludes him.

“I would love to win one, obviously, and I’m jealous of all the other players that have one,” he said in December. “I think there will always be a little bit of an asterisk against my name until I win one, but I’ll be trying very hard to correct that.”

That formidable foursome only scratches the surface. Defending champion Charl Schwartzel has been a top-10 machine since the PGA. Former runner-up Westwood won twice in December. Hunter Mahan and Justin Rose won World Golf Championship events in the past month. Reigning FedEx Cup champion Bill Haas defeated two major winners in a playoff at Riviera. The highest-ranked American, Steve Stricker, won the season opener at Kapalua. Last year’s Masters runners-up Adam Scott and Jason Day carry the hopes of Australia.

Safe to say that the days when only a handful of players were considered legitimate contenders to win at Augusta are long gone. The favorites have their hands full more than ever.

Top off the mix with a rejuvenated Tiger and a rekindled quest to catch Jack and the hype grows exponentially.

Woods’ 72nd tour victory gives him a chance to tie Nicklaus’ career mark at Augusta, which would move him a step closer to the Golden Bear’s Masters and majors records.

“I’m looking forward to more of the green jacket part of it than tying Jack, in that regard,” Woods said. “Jack’s had an amazing career and he’s won a bunch of tournaments. But also, he’s won more majors than anybody else, either. So I’m looking forward to my opportunities this year. There’s four of them this year and hopefully I can peak at the right times for all four of them.”

That’s the kind of Tiger talk that’s been missing from the equation for two years. If Woods and everyone else brings their best stuff next week, it could be truly special.

Comments (16) Add comment
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peace4784
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peace4784 03/26/12 - 03:27 pm
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Tiger will hold all 4 majors,
Unpublished

Tiger will hold all 4 majors, period. The best ever will no longer be up for discussion.

justthefacts
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justthefacts 03/26/12 - 03:30 pm
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Miller is right to a certain

Miller is right to a certain extent. Tiger may win many more tournaments and maybe catch Jack. But he will never dominate golf as he did 10 years ago. So, in that sense, his best is behind him.

rmwardsr
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rmwardsr 03/26/12 - 05:04 pm
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justthefacts- I agree

justthefacts- I agree completely. He is sure to win a few more major tournaments in the coming years, but with the injuries and surgeries he has had, and with age, his best days are certainly behind him. Besides, I cannot think of a player who has won two major tournaments back to back.

Jake
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Jake 03/26/12 - 07:06 pm
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rmwardsr, I can think of a

rmwardsr, I can think of a few players who have won back to back majors. There is only one who has held the title of all of the 4 modern major championships at the same time, that being Tiger Woods. In 2000 he won the US Open, British Open, and PGA Championship. In 2001 he won the Masters, thus holding all the titles at one time, which has since been called the "Tiger Slam".

rmwardsr
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rmwardsr 03/26/12 - 08:22 pm
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Jake- I think the controversy

Jake- I think the controversy back then was that all four majors were not won in the same year. But you are right. Although Tiger's feat was not considered a true Grand Slam of Golf, I must give him credit. But his glory days are in the past. Someone who has played with his fervor and tenacity can not go on forever. However, he can still go out being the best.

Jake
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Jake 03/26/12 - 09:09 pm
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While watching the golf

While watching the golf tournament yesterday, I was struck with Johnny Miller's comment about golfers having a "second career". Many golfers have played good golf in their later years. I think of Mark O'Meara in this regard. If anyone can have a second career then it would be Tiger Woods. As long as he has the desire to win and works hard at it then I think it will happen. I was doubting his desire in his quest to get back to winning but I think there is no question about it now. Absolutely the best golfer on the planet.

justthefacts
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justthefacts 03/26/12 - 09:37 pm
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Tiger wins one PGA event in

Tiger wins one PGA event in 2.5 yrs and he is the "best golfer on the planet"? Hmmm.

allhans
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allhans 03/26/12 - 10:55 pm
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His participation can only

His participation can only help.

Jake
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Jake 03/26/12 - 11:11 pm
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I think coupled with his

I think coupled with his previous record, I would call him the best golfer on the planet that is currently playing. Who do you have in mind that can challenge him based upon his overall record?

Moby220
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Moby220 03/27/12 - 12:45 am
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Every one of you who claims "

Every one of you who claims " Tiger will never" seem to forget he is ONLY 36 .. Tom Watson lead the British open for 3 rounds at the age of 59 ..VJ Singh was player of the year at 45 .. Tiger has at least 10 good years left , maybe 20 .. and he has only been playing for 19 years professionally .. ..If Mickleson shoots 74 it's not a story .. if Tiger does he has collapsed and will never win again.. Quit being Tiger haters and let him play

seenitB4
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seenitB4 03/27/12 - 05:31 am
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TIGER IS BACK... Yall kill

TIGER IS BACK...

Yall kill me....(little jealous maybe? heh)

He makes the game exciting to watch...the man has "it".....say whatever you want...he brings the crowd with him.

justthefacts
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justthefacts 03/27/12 - 06:58 am
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Jake, you're last two

Jake, you're last two sentences point to present tense, not career. I have always admired Tiger's game. He very well be the best to have ever played, when his career is over. As of now, Jack Nicklaus is. But, right now, today, he is not the best player on the planet. Probably not top 10. His last three tourneys he was blown away in the match play event, walked off at Doral, and now has won. Let's see how it plays out. But, back to the topic, regardless of what happens, his best golf, which was unbelievable great, is behind him.
Seenit, jealous, right. I have no idea how you get that out of any of the above comments.

rmwardsr
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rmwardsr 03/27/12 - 08:29 am
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It's time for someone else to

It's time for someone else to take the torch. Tiger is old news. He has had his 30 minutes of fame.(15 minutes in the golf world, and 15 minutes in the porn world). It is apparent he is not the role model he was first portrayed as. But then again Tiger has never been one who seems to fond of his fans. He is nore like a politician: He does and says what benefits him at the time.

Jake
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Jake 03/27/12 - 09:25 am
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I would say Tiger has had

I would say Tiger has had more than 30 minutes of fame, starting professionally in 1997 when he obliterated the famed Augusta National golf course and won by 12 strokes thus "encouraging" the National to make course "improvements". Injuries and his indiscretions have taken their toll but I still think he can return to the winners circle again as he proved this past weekend.
Jack Nicklaus is still in my mind the greatest golfer ever until Tiger can catch his majors record.

YeCats
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YeCats 03/27/12 - 12:01 pm
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When speaking of tournament

When speaking of tournament golf, who's the greatest? At my age, Tiger is the only golfer to compel me to watch/read about golf since Jack. I'm not saying I don't pay attention to golf if their not playing, I'm saying COMPELS. It's great for golf, that Tiger's playing well going into the Master's, yet if he quit tomorrow I would put he right up there alongside of Jack. Both have been/are equally great for tournament golf.

my.voice
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my.voice 03/27/12 - 09:58 pm
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Yawn.....why are we still

Yawn.....why are we still discussing this low life? He's got two kids who want a daddy, cheated on his wife horrifically and we care if he wins a golf tournament?

seenitB4
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seenitB4 03/28/12 - 04:41 am
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my.voice... Just wondering if

my.voice...

Just wondering if you had the media following you 24/7 how "perfect" would your life be??

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