Could Tiger really win a fifth Masters Green Jacket?
One of the more interesting stories this week once again concerns Tiger Woods.
No longer the world’s most dominant player or indeed the incapacitated individual who required three surgeries on his back just to get back on the golf course, it is quite understanding that the healthy again Woods is drawing nostalgic interest once more.
Last year at the Open and the PGA Championships, he proved that he still had the appetite to contend in major championships but his victory at East Lake in the season ending Tour Championship last year proved to everyone, especially his peers, that perhaps the greatest iron player of all time was indeed someone who could possibly contend in major championships.
Although his intimidation factor is now long gone, Tiger’s intimate knowledge of a course he has won four times on means that he still holds some aces up his sleeve but his game plan needs to remain bold enough to get himself right into contention.
Traditionally we know that Tiger likes to ease his way into contention slowly over the first couple of rounds and he will be buoyed by his impressive start and more importantly the accuracy he has found this week off the tee box.
Shane Lowry still has to prove himself in America
Shane Lowry, the golfer, has always been a bit of an enigma.
Always affable and endlessly talented he can be a match for any golfer on the planet, when on form, but behind his good humour and energy you feel that there is a man frustrated by his inconsistency, especially in America.
The Race to Dubai leader scraped into Augusta this week, thanks largely to his recent success in Abu Dhabi but most of his contemporaries would readily acknowledge that his world ranking of 50 should be far higher, such is his talent.
In the right circumstances, he should really contend this week.
He has the game, the imagination and the skill set to succeed around Augusta but unlike his great friend Rory McIlroy, it seems that he is neither confident enough, nor honest enough to pay attention to the level of detail required to push him consistently onto the next level.
Quite simply he has to take a leap of faith and that means taking himself out of his comfort zone by way of seeing if he can in fact make enough marginal gains to propel his game onto the next level, the level where he and others feel he belongs.
Can Rory Put all the pieces together and win around Augusta?
There isn’t a person in the world who doubts Rory’s pedigree or indeed his big game temperament.
There is nothing he loves more than being in the heat of battle, backing himself against the very best.
On form, such is his flair and ball striking ability that he is almost impossible to hold off but he has a glaring weakness.
Ask any of the professionals any week and they will tell you that if Rory putts well, he will win.
When he won the Tournament Players Championship recently, he was ranked 45th in the field in putting.
For most PGA professionals that stat renders them almost uncompetitive and certainly won’t win Rory his coveted title, this week.
Yesterday a somewhat nervous Rory McIlroy started slowly on a golf course built to frustrate.
He would have mentally prepared himself for this possibility of course but on a course where even the best hit putts leave you with more to do, you can only imagine that McIlroy’s frustration would have been compounded all the more by seeing the only man with a higher profile than him in the field, a true veteran at 43, Tiger Woods at the top of the board.
A late rally - albeit followed by further bogeys - helped his cause but emotionally this is going to be a long week for Rory.
The question now remains whether or not he can find the necessary answers to challenge for the title.
What has happened to Jordan Spieth?
For what it’s worth, I am a huge Jordan Spieth fan and I had high hopes that he would be able to resurrect his game around Augusta National this week.
Much like Rory McIlroy, Spieth is three quarters of the way towards achieving a grand slam of major championships but it has been alarming to see his slide in form over the past year.
Sure we all knew that he couldn’t continue to hole out 27% of all his putts from mid distance range but Augusta National has always been a venue where his skills have come to fore.
A poor front nine holes yesterday perhaps demonstrates just how low his confidence is at the moment but if anyone can turn that around, it is Spieth.
It just goes to demonstrate the power of the mind.
As in all sports, it is the most dominant factor and most probably explains the longevity of the likes of Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus.
Spieth’s too good a player for his star not to shine again but not perhaps it seems at this year’s US Masters.