Woods tries to end Masters drought

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 04, 2013
Tiger Woods in a green jacket once felt like an annual celebration of spring, as regular as the azaleas bursting with color at Augusta National. Now it's more like a fading memory. It has been eight years since Woods rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt to win the Masters in a playoff for his fourth green jacket. He appeared to be well on his way to living up to that audacious prediction of Jack Nicklaus, who played a practice round at Augusta with Woods -- then a 19-year-old amateur -- and Arnold Palmer. Nicklaus came away so impressed that he considered his six Masters and the four won by Palmer and said, ''This kid should win more than that.'' But the major Woods was supposed to dominate has become the major he can't seem to win. ''It's been one of those things where I've been close there so many times on that back nine on Sunday, and I just haven't won,'' Woods said. ''I've been in the mix. Been on the periphery and played myself into the mix. I've been right there with just a few holes to go, and it just hasn't happened. Hopefully, this year it will be a different story.'' This might be his best chance to end the drought -- not only at the Masters, but in the majors. He last won one at the 2008 U.S. Open. Woods is fully healthy for the first time in years. He appears happy after a scandal that ruined his marriage and his image, announcing a few weeks ago that he's dating Olympic ski champion Lindsey Vonn. He is winning again at an alarming rate - six out of his last 20 on the U.S. PGA Tour, including consecutive wins heading into the Masters. And he is back to No. 1 in the world. Also back is his swagger. ''Everyone is waiting for the first major. I don't know why they're waiting for that,'' Hunter Mahan said. ''I think he's done enough this year to realize that he's still really good and he's still better than everyone else. He set the bar so high, I don't know what is going to make everyone go, `He's back to that time.' ''It seems hard to be intimidating in golf,'' Mahan said. ''But I think he's the closest thing to it.'' Now all Woods needs is a green jacket. He has only worn the jacket for the Champions Dinner since last winning in 2005, and as defending champion at the trophy presentation a year later. Woods had six three-putts in 2006, twice missing eagle chances inside 15 feet on the back Sunday when he finished three shots behind Phil Mickelson. Those close to Woods suspected he was simply trying too hard, knowing it would be the last time his father watched the Masters. Earl Woods died a month later. ''Just really wanted to have him be a part of one last major championship victory and I didn't get it done,'' Woods said. ''It hurt quite a bit. ... There's never been another defeat that has felt like that.'' But the losses kept piling up. Woods couldn't catch Zach Johnson in 2007, hurt by a bogey-bogey finish in consecutive rounds. A cold putter stopped him in 2009, and in his last great chance in 2011, he was tied for the lead going to the back nine on Sunday and played it even par. ''The style in which guys play nowadays, guys are long and aggressive, and it's not like Tiger back in `97 when he dominated people with his length,'' Graeme McDowell said. ''He was playing a completely different golf course from everyone else. I think there are so many guys now who can decimate a golf course like that when it's playing benign.'' One of those guys is Rory McIlroy, though golf's next big star hasn't looked like one lately. McIlroy won the U.S. PGA Championship in August for his second major - more than Woods had at that age - and then became the first player to win back-to-back tournaments with Woods in the field during the FedEx Cup playoffs a month later. He closed out the year by capturing the money title on the U.S. PGA and European Tours, and he was the undisputed best player in golf. That's no longer the case. With so much scrutiny over swapping out all of his equipment under a massive Nike endorsement, McIlroy has languished. The missed cut in Abu Dhabi. A first-round loss in the Match Play Championship. Quitting after 27 holes of the Honda Classic. McIlroy added the Texas Open a week before the Masters, desperate to shake the rust out of his game and replace it with some confidence. ''All the pieces are there,'' he said. ''It's about putting them all together. And once I put them together, I'll be fine.'' Brandt Snedeker expected to pose a challenge when he enjoyed a superb start of the year by finishing runner-up in consecutive weeks to Mickelson and Woods, and then winning at Pebble Beach. But he had to take a month off with sore ribs, and Snedeker missed the cut in two events since his return. Mickelson is always a threat at Augusta -- another win would give him as many Masters titles as Woods -- but he is as unpredictable as ever. Woods typically is the man to beat in the majors, and in that regard, nothing has changed. It's everything else about this Masters that is so different. Along with attention on who will win a green jacket, there will be plenty of buzz about who's already wearing one - former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore. The club invited its first two women to join in the 80-year history. This is shaping up as a Masters for the ages, with Woods on the cusp of returning to his full greatness, and McIlroy needing a green jacket to give him the third leg of the career Grand Slam. And there has never been an age discrepancy as wide as this one among the newcomers -- 46-year-old Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand, and 14-year-old Guan Tianlang of China, who qualified by winning the Asia Pacific Amateur. ''It's frightening to think that he was born after I won my first Masters,'' Woods said of the Chinese teen. In so many ways, that `97 Masters seems like such a long time ago. And in some respects, so do the last couple of years. Woods had only been married about six months when he last won the Masters in 2005. He was just starting to figure out the swing changes under his new coach, Hank Haney. If there were rivals, none were younger than him. The Nicklaus record seemed to be a matter of when, not if. Based on the two months leading up to the Masters, Woods looks poised to get back on track in his pursuit of Nicklaus. His Sunday red shirt has looked brighter than ever this year. It might look even more intimidating under a green jacket.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Twitter, Facebook report engagement decline during Super Bowl

Steve Spurrier becomes special assistant to South Carolina AD

Brent Musberger wants you to bet on Joe Lunardi’s bracketology

Unranked Duke uses big first half to beat No.13 Louisville

MLB reportedly close to rule preventing collisions at second base

USOC says athletes concern about Zika shouldn't attend Games

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Von Miller shares support for embattled Johnny Manziel

The Panthers had to use a silent snap count at the Super Bowl

Report: Lakers would fire Byron Scott to hire Luke Walton

Was Alain Vigneault right about NHL's lack of punishment towards Wayne Simmonds?

Seahawks’ Frank Clark rips Cam Newton ‘that boy a b—‘

Report: Tom Thibodeau has 'always wanted' Knicks job

Daniel Bryan says goodbye to WWE during teary retirement speech

Paul George delivers great line about driving by Kobe Bryant

WATCH: Oklahoma beats Texas on Buddy Hield's 3-pointer

Andre Drummond hits 70-foot buzzer beater to end 3rd quarter

Duke's Allen appears to intentionally trip Louisville's Spaulding

Candidates for New York Knicks head coaching job

Attorney alleges Johnny Manziel ruptured ex-girlfriend's eardrum

Jeanie Buss may clean house in Lakers’ front office

Lisa Ann wants to reward Emmanuel Sanders for Super Bowl win

WWE Superstar Daniel Bryan to announce retirement

Nine best and worst players from 2015 NFL playoffs

Rodman wants Phil Jackson to know he’s ready to coach Knicks

Wade Phillips trolls Cam Newton with dabbing tweet

Golf News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Was Alain Vigneault right about NHL's lack of punishment towards Wayne Simmonds?

Report: Knicks fire coach Derek Fisher

The best and worst commercials from Super Bowl 50

Best and worst from Super Bowl 50

Six best plays from Super Bowl 50

Eli doesn't look thrilled as Peyton wins Super Bowl

Did Beyonce almost fall down during Super Bowl halftime show?

Curry to serve as drummer for Panthers

Report: Marshawn Lynch plans to retire

The 14 biggest plays in Super Bowl history

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker