The Masters gets underway on Thursday, and Tiger Woods enters with a head of steam after winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational last month, his first PGA Tour victory since September 2009. Sure, the field at Bay Hill was formidable but it wasn’t a major, and I’m still not convinced that he is back to his former self. I mean no disrespect toward the man himself, but it’s just difficult for me to think that at age 36 he has enough energy to reestablish himself as the most dominant golfer on the planet.
Woods’s fans will say I’m not a golfer or a golf expert, and they would be absolutely correct. However, I’m a master of observation and my observation here is this: A golfer usually competes against the course and his own ailments and inner thoughts, not other golfers. But in a major, golfers compete against not only the things I just mentioned, but also against large galleries, television cameras, intense media coverage and, yes, other golfers.
In the past, I believe Tiger Woods preyed on this fact. After dominating golf for so long, his swag factor alone intimidated the other guys so much that if it came down to the last few holes, Tiger’s opponents were psyched out, giving him a clear advantage. But even with Tiger’s recent win, he is not coming into Augusta National with any sort of psychological advantage.
Here’s the the challenge for Tiger Woods: At 36, he only has so much time to remind his competitors of how good he used to be. To win this weekend, he needs to again show that he’s they guy they have to be worried about.
If the field no longer fears Tiger, I can’t see him reaching his past dominance. Sure, he will be respected as a legend by the other guys — especially the younger golfers who grew up watching him on television and try to emulate him — but legends are often thought of as being in the past, not the present.
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