After a 3-year hiatus, Tiger Woods, one of the greatest golfers of all time, is heading back to compete in the 2018 edition of the Augusta Masters. The 14-time major winner had a solid top 5 finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational earlier this week and has since seen his odds quickly shorten at top bookmakers.
The majority of Woods’ last couple of years have been plagued with various health issues, including a persistent back injury that has made each of his returns to the game inconsistent, citing fans’ concerns that he may remain a shadow of his former self for the rest of his career.
The 42 year old’s odds to win the Masters at William Hill are 9/1 at the time of writing, putting him just shy of McIlroy, who comes in at 8/1 after impressive performances as of late, including a win at the same Arnold Palmer Invitational in which Woods showed great promise. With all of the fan, media and bookmaker speculation, the question has to be asked - can Woods actually win the 2018 Masters?
While die hard fans may hope for Woods to dust off his green jacket and take home the bacon at Augusta, the general feeling amongst his peers seems to assert that punters should take his stellar recent performances with a large pinch of salt. After all, the Masters is no ordinary golf tournament.
Paul McGinley, Europe’s winning captain for the 2014 Ryder Cup recently spoke on the Sky Sports Golf Podcast where he aired his concerns about Woods’ winning chances.
“It’s quite incredible his comeback, it really is. I still think I’d like to see a little more of him before I could talk about him being a potential major winner because he hasn’t jumped the mental hurdle yet.”
“He came to the last hole [in Valspar] in the last group needing a birdie to get into a playoff and his strategy of hitting a two-iron off the tee and leaving him 195 into that pin where he hit it on the front of the green and left his putt short. He seems happy to make second and that didn’t quite add up to me. We haven’t seen that from Tiger in the past so those hurdles I’d like to see kind of jumped before I go down the line of he can win a major.”
World number 2 Justin Thomas, who picked up the USPGA Championship last year, conceded that Woods is a great contender, but is also skeptical of his chances of a Masters win. He told Sporting News that pressure may play a huge part.
“..he's Tiger Woods, and there is a point there for a while I remember seeing where he was like three to two to win tournaments or whatever. I mean it was just unbelievable. He's played well... it will be cool to go there and [be] one of the favorites, although in reality it has no impact whatsoever on how you're going to play or what you're going to do. If anything, it may just add a little bit more pressure because more eyes and more spotlight is on you."
While looking favourably at the prospect of placing a bet on Tiger Woods to win the 2018 US Masters, a fear bookies had for the Arnold Palmer Invitational, punters will surely take note of the following before parting with their cash.
3 Years Without Playing Augusta | It has been 3 years since Tiger Woods has stepped foot on a fairway at Augusta, while the majority of other favourites - including Rory McIlroy - competed in the Masters last year. If Woods is to build on his recent form he won’t have time to be rusty when he approaches the first tee box.
Excellent Recent Performances | As stated, Woods has been on a hot streak lately, with a classy recent performance at the Arnold Palmer Invitational bolstering fans confidence in him for the Masters win.
While golf betting fanatics will be delighted to see Woods’ recent return to form this should not serve as an indication that he will definitely win the Masters. The bookies are being coy, but you have to remember that while Woods has a reputation as one of the greats, he hasn’t won a tournament, let alone a major, in over five years.
Tiger Woods has publicly questioned whether he would ever return to the professional game as early as last year, so it's easy to understand the criticisms of peers like McGinley or Thomas. There’s nothing to say that Woods can’t win the Masters, and the bookies don’t shorten odds without a solid reason.
However, McIlroy has just broken his dry streak and will be gunning for a green jacket of his own. If you think Woods can overcome the odds, which remain stacked against him, check out Ladbrokes, TopBetta or even Paddy Power before the action starts.