Nick Bonfield analyses the 14-time Major Champion's chances at Augusta National and asks whether the Tiger Woods Masters dream is over
Why Tiger Woods’ Masters Dream Is Over
Many people still argue you can never write Tiger Woods off at The Masters; that he can win around Augusta National blindfolded. It’s an opinion I used to wholeheartedly subscribe to, but I’ve seen enough recently to persuade me it’s no longer a valid one.
The main factor underpinning my new stance is obviously his health, but psychological issues and a shift in the professional game since the last time he contended at Augusta – now almost four years ago in 2013 – are both significant considerations.
But first, his health. Tiger Woods hasn’t played four consecutive competitive rounds – and I’m not including the Hero World Challenge here – since August 2015 at the Wyndham Championship.
The following month, he announced his intention to undergo back surgery. Throughout the entire rehabilitation process, the perennial narrative was that he wasn’t going to rush back. Translation: this is probably my last shot.
So when I heard he’d pulled out of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with back spasms, I feared the worst. I always maintained it would be curtains if he failed to make it through at least six months after a 16-month injury lay-off. Reports that have surfaced in recent weeks about his inability to sit down have done nothing to offer any encouragement whatsoever.
It’s such a shame, because I genuinely thought he was looking good at the Wyndham, and at the Quicken Loans National. In fact, I even talked myself into putting money on Woods for the 2015 USPGA Championship!
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The simple fact is that you can’t carry on taking risks with your back or you’ll ruin yourself for the rest of your life. You think there aren’t people in his ear telling him that?
If three procedures, followed by 16 months of rest and rehabilitation, didn’t solve the problem, then it’s hard to maintain a positive outlook. You have to draw the line somewhere. At this point, retirement is much more likely than another professional victory.
I know his record at Augusta is exemplary, but first and foremost, I can’t see him playing this year. And secondly, if he does make the field, he’s taken such a psychological battering recently that I can’t imagine his mind being in the right place to compete in a Major.
He may well play again at Augusta in the future, but the standard at the sharp end of the professional game is so much higher nowadays than it was even in 2013. That year, Woods won five PGA Tour events, was named PGA Tour Player of the Season and looked in sublime form until his ill-fated drop on the 15th hole during the second round of The Masters.
Who knows what the situation would be if he’d gone on to win that event, but circumstances conspired against him – as they have almost incessantly since.
It gives me no pleasure at all to say it, but I genuinely think Tiger Woods is done.