Leading up to the 2012 Master’s, the story on most golf enthusiasts’ mind is whether Tiger Woods has finally reclaimed his old form that netted him 14 Major championships from 1997-2008.
Many can remember Tiger bursting onto the scene 15 years ago when he blew out the field in the 1997 Masters by a then astonishing 12 strokes. This feat, which had never been seen before and has only since been matched by Tiger’s other dominating Major Championship performances such as his 20 stroke 2000 US Open victory at Pebble Beach. It was then the golfing world realized just how unique Tiger Wood’s game was and how possible his pursuit of Jack Nicolas’ seemingly unattainable 20 Major championships was.
The start of the 2012 season has given golf enthusiasts a strong indication that Tiger Woods is well on his way to reclaiming his old form. However, questions still loom about Tiger’s game and his ability to remain healthy, as indicated by his withdraw from the Cadillac Championship just weeks ago with a left Achilles injury.
Despite the injury, Tiger was able to fully bounce back last weekend when he silenced his critics by claiming his first PGA Tour victory since 2009. He distanced himself from the field on Friday with a bogey free 65 and then forced other players to try and mount a weekend charge based on Tiger’s refusal to give shots back. As is normally the case, the charge never materialized and Tiger had once again shown that he has developed an insatiable taste for victory.
However, it is not just Tiger Wood’s ability to finally win a PGA tour event that supports the assertion voiced by the golfing world that Tiger is now the odds on favorite to win the 2012 Masters. Tiger’s rebirth is also shown through his game play statistics that indicate Tiger has once again reached a consistency in his game that mirrors his 2007-2008 season, which was prematurely concluded with his one legged playoff victory at the 2008 US Open.
Tiger’s scoring average has now dipped to a very respectable 68.67, good enough for third on the PGA tour, a number that closely resembles his 2008 average of 68.7 stokes per round.
These statistics indicates that Tiger, as evinced by his 14 wire to wire victories including 4 major championships, is regaining his ability to go for the jugular early in events and force the field to make a weekend run, which as the 2012 Doral showed, is next to impossible.
As shown by Tiger’s mind numbing 86% victory rate in worldwide events when he is tied or in the lead after three rounds of play, it is apparent that if Tiger is able to put up some below par rounds at Augusta on Thursday and Friday, he will be near impossible to fend off come the weekend.
Not only has he regained his scoring touch but he has also redefined his game in a fashion that will allow him to navigate the tight fairways and slippery greens that Augusta National is known for. Mr. Woods has improved his driving accuracy by leaps and bounds from last year, hitting 68% of fairways, a 19% improvement from 2011 and an 11% improvement from 2008. Tiger has also shown an increased ability to reward his accurate drives by hitting approximately 72% of his greens in regulation, a 4% increase from 2011 and 1% increase from 2008.
Although these numbers are intriguing the most compelling indication that Tiger is back are the statistics that show that he has once again found his deadly putting stroke. This is indicated by his making nearly 49% of putts from five to fifteen feet. As a result Tiger has increased his birdie per round average to 4.5. Even if Tiger is unable to post impressive rounds prior to the weekend, if he is able to stick around and make the cut his vastly improved game will give him a chance to make the red shirt filled weekend charge that he has made so famous.
There is no other story leading up to the 2012 Masters that contains nearly as much intrigue as that of Tiger Woods. Although we may all casually discuss around the dinner table other players’ chances, the golfing world will be better off if come Sunday the world’s attention is on Tiger. If he does mount the back nine push that we all anticipate, it is safe to say that Tiger’s 15th Major Championship will indicate to the world that his charge at historical greatness is back.
What do you think? Whose your top pick for the 2012 Masters?
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