I was beginning to think about my 2011 Masters predictions post this week, when I woke up this morning to see this interview with Tiger Woods on ESPN. When asked “Who is the best player in the world?” Tiger could only respond with a smirk and another question, “When I get me swing dialed in?”
As much as Tiger now has his doubters, even given the fact that he hasn’t won a tournament since November 2009, I tend to agree with him. He’s had some pretty significant extracurricular activities to distract him and he changed his swing coach, both of which are in fact pretty good excuses for his performance as of late. But the guy is as hungry as ever — he’s just 4 measly little majors away from Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 (4 majors and measly can only be used in the same sentence because of Tiger) and clearly still believes that he will bring that record to his feet. Not to mention he’s still got more talent in his pinky finger than anyone on tour (although I do see that extra gear in Rory McIlroy as well).
As for the Masters, I’ve already predicted a breakout win for Tiger a few times over and missed, so I’m hesitant to do it again. Tiger is playing next week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill — let’s just say that tournament will have a lot to do with my prediction. Stay tuned.
No doubt about it, Tiger Woods had a wild 2010. He didn’t win a golf tournament, he lost his golden boy aura, and despite his graphic text messages and infidelity, he managed to elude the villianized image that enveloped Lebron James for merely announcing that he was taking his talents to South Beach. Tiger has since built a new house, been seen at countless sporting events, and although no one noticed he would have won a golf tournament a few weeks back had it not been for a couple of miraculous putts by Graeme McDowell. Oh yea, and he topped it all of with a healthy dose of “sex rehab.” All of this leads me to wonder — What does 2011 have in store for Tiger?
Let’s start with the timing of this post; the 2011 PGA Tour season kicks off January 3-9 in Hawaii at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions (previously known as the Mercedes Championship — talk about downgrading). This is an invitation only event for tournament winners from 2010, meaning this is the first year that Tiger has not been invited in over a decade. You likely won’t even see Tiger in action until February, but I can assure you of one thing:
Now that Tiger is divorced, he’s going to do what he wants to do. And although you think that might be some potent cocktail of, well, cocktail waitresses, I can assure you that’s not Tiger’s main concern. Tiger wants to practice. Tiger wants to be the best golfer ever. And that means winning majors. End of story.
So will he succeed in 2011 or has he lost his game and his nerve? I think his loss to Graeme McDowell was telling enough — the game is in there. So you’re hearing it here and now, before the PGA Tour season begins — Tiger Woods will win at least 5 tournaments, including at least 1 major in 2011. My guess is that Tiger will win the Masters at Augusta, thus silencing his critics, completing his “comeback,” and announcing loud and clear to players on tour that things have not changed all that much.
That said, I do think that you’ll see other tour players take shots at Tiger in the media that much more. His game unchanged, I think that criticism becomes a lot easier for these guys now that Tiger’s golden boy image is deceased. As for Tiger’s response? He’ll kick their butts as usual. Trust me on this one.