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Surprise: Tiger Woods has Some Competition at the ’08 Masters

April 10th, 2008 · No Comments

2008 Masters Coverage – thru 4/15

Going into this Masters if felt as if this year’s edition would be about as competitive for Tiger Woods as the Target World. There was short list of about a half dozen legitimate contenders. But as the sun set on Thursday’s opener, it turns out the rest of the golf world came to play.

Maybe the notion of Tiger winning the Grand Slam uncontested is what got them riled up. Whatever – it’s nice to see, if even for just a day, that others not named Woods can play a little.

Justin Rose and Trevor Immelman, who both have tied for fifth within the last three years at the Masters, share the lead at 68. Lee Westwood, who is second on Europe’s Order of Merit, heads up a trio at 69. Last year’s winner Zach Johnson and Jim Furyk are in a group of five at 70. Eight players, including pretourney favorites Phil Mickelson and Retief Goosen are in at 71. Tiger and 13 others shot even par 72s. That’s 32 players who are even with, or ahead of our aspirant to the Grand Slam.

Woods’ last four holes and some tape of his earlier play became part of the afternoon’s coverage thanks to the hour long fog delay. He said he played solid golf, but didn’t get much out of his round. Upon further analysis, it appears as if Woods was slightly off message.

Earlier in the day I heard on the Golf Channel that he’d missed six of the first 10 greens, but made all pars, indicating that he wasn’t quite on top of his game. He manged to hit five of the last eight, giving his 61.11% for the round. A replay showed him hooking his drive into the trees on 14, leading to a bogey.

On 15 his drive wandered too far left, but he managed to bend an iron around the trees about 15-20 feet over the green. His subsequent chip shot was a thing of beauty: it landed lightly on the green, took a couple of hops before the air brakes grabbed hold. He ball then trickled the rest of the way into the cup for an eagle, bringing him back to even par.

His birdie putt on 16 lipped out. On 17 his tee shot wandered wide right behind a stand of tall pines. Like a magician, he drilled a waste high iron shot through the forest and ran the ball up just short of the green. He then scrambled for a par. After a perfect drive on 18, his second shot from only 158 yards was 35-40’ wide right, indicating that his tendency to push his drives may have worked itself into his iron shots.

One of the benefits of an early tee time on Thursday is the extra time a player has on Friday to correct any flaw before a late tee time the next day. It appears as if Tiger and Hank Haney will need every minute. The course is giving up very little roll, so Tiger’s going to have to use the driver on more holes than ever before. While he is great at punching balls through the trees, that not the recommended strategy for capturing the first leg of the slam. His old nemesis, the driver, may hold the key to the jacket and the slam, as this course is no Hoylake, thank goodness.

Tiger can still win this tournament, but he’s going to have to rediscover his A Game, while a good number of his upstart contenders will have to fade back into the pack. It could happen, and it wouldn’t be the first time. But for now, let’s be thankful that the plot has thickened a bit.

Tags: 2008 Masters Coverage

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