What are Tiger’s chances to wear the Green Jacket after his win at Doral?
Tiger Woods was simply unstoppable this past weekend at TPC Blue Monster at Doral and once again proved to everyone why he is the greatest of all time while winning his 17th World Golf Championship title. With that look in his eyes that we all have come to love, you knew Tiger was not going to lose sinking putt after putt. Woods’ swing has looked as good as it has all year, possibly even better than his win at foggy Torrey Pines earlier this year. I bet Steve Stricker wishes he can take back those putting tips he gave Tiger earlier this week prior to the World Golf Classic. Talk about back to his old form, Tiger now has his 5th win in his last 19 PGA Tour starts while converting 51 of 55 third-round leads/ co-leads to victories.
Tiger was driving the ball with extreme power this weekend, blasting his longest 327 yards with ease. It is quite remarkable to see these professional golfers drive the ball further than any weekend hacker can even imagine while making it look like a walk in the park. It is difficult to drive with such power and hit the fairways consistently which is what led to Tiger hitting the fairways only 53.6% yet we have seen Tiger accomplish both in his career. What made him so successful at Doral was his ability to save the drives in the rough consistently landing his next shots on or very close to the green. Woods’ GIR percentage (69.4%) was enough for the victory however only 1.3% better than second place Steve Stricker which made each of his sinking putts even more important (Woods also finished with a sand save percentage of 100). And once Tiger was on the green, it was game over for everyone else on the leader boards including his new putt tipper Steve Stricker. It took Woods an average of 1.5 putts to make the galleries by the greens roar like no one else has been able to do. Tiger finished with 27 birdies this week, one short of his personal best on the PGA Tour, and he took the fewest putts (100) over 72 holes in any tour event.
As for his expected competition at Augusta, Tiger will not be stopped if he continues to play at this rate come time for the Masters. For the first time in over five years, Tiger has two wins prior to the Masters both of which were dominant. Everyone on the tour should be nervous to see Tiger in old form because there is no one in the history of golf better when Woods is playing at his best.
Putting guru Steve Stricker finished the weekend 17 under par earning him sole possession of second place. Stricker definitely is kicking himself for those simple yet deadly putting tips he gave Tiger. Stricker and Tiger both put up a sand save percentage of 100, two of the best in the tour at that. Stricker was behind Tiger in average putts by one tenth of a percent (1.6%) which is what Stricker is known for, being the best putter of all time. Expect Stricker to contend in the Masters but only if he can keep up his known excellence of putting. We all know how tricky those greens at Augusta can be.
Rory McIlroy started slow this weekend before making a surge and looking like the Rory of last year. MIlory finished tied 8th at Doral shooting an impressive -10. Rory hit the fairways 51.8% of the time, something he will need to improve if he wants a shot at the green jacket. His GIR, which was better than Tiger at 70.8%, is something we all enjoy to see Rory do well to put him in contention.
The lefty specialist Phil Mickelson possibly looked his best all year in Miami finishing tied for third shooting14 under for the round. Mickelson looked most impressive in his greens in regulation at 73.6% beating both Rory and Tiger. Phil drove the fairways 57.1% of the time which is what will be necessary for him to contend at Augusta. The galleries love Phil so look for him to feed and build off his success this weekend to please the crowds at the Masters.
Graeme McDowell, the second best player from North Ireland behind Rory MIlroy, started Sunday in sole possession of second place putting him in a spot to give Tiger a run for his money being paired together on Sunday. Getting off to a hot start birdying the first two holes, McDowell went on to bogey 5, 11, and a double bogey on 18. Finishing tied third at -14 look for McDowell to be in same form at Augusta hitting the fairways 75% and a GIR 72.2%.
As for Bubba Watson, the last golfer to wear the green jacket, his time at the World Golf Classic was not what he was expecting. Watson finished his weekend 7 under par T18th which won’t cut it for another jacket. Watson hit the fairways only 48.2% of the time while consistently driving the ball over 300 yards with an average drive going 309.3. One of Bubba’s biggest weaknesses at Doral was his sand game only saving it 45.5% of the time from the beach. He will need to work on this to see his name atop the leader boards this season. Watson is a great golfer who is as creative as it gets however I don’t see him making a run for a repeat in Georgia with Tiger looking dominant.
What this means for Tiger is simple; build off these two early and dominant wins so far this season for a chance to wear the green jacket for a fifth time in his career. Expect Tiger to continue to work on his putting but I’m sure he won’t get any more tips from Mr.Stricker (Tiger can spend some of the $1.5 million he won Sunday on putting tips). Woods will need to improve on hitting the fairways more consistently for he will not always be so dominant with his ability to save his shots in the rough. If Tiger’s swing at the Masters resembles what his swing looked like this weekend then expect Tiger to attract large galleries with rowdy and excited spectators. With his look of determination and poised calmness Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer of all time which he showed us all this weekend at Doral.