Monday, November 28, 2011

Does the 2012 Masters Belong to Tiger?

Between 2000 and 2010, the Masters Tournament became increasingly dominated by two players, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, with an occasional (and arguably, welcome) interjection by golf's equivalent of a 'one hit wonder', such as Canada's Mike Weir, in 2003.

The two professionals claimed more than half of all Masters titles on offer during the last decade, a tally that makes the previous ten years, 1990-2000, look like a disorganised free-for-all, with its nine separate winners.

However, it was Woods' domination, rather than Mickelson's, which prompted many late night discussions about the future of the sport – or, to be more specific, whether the Californian was bad for golf, as a whole. After winning fourteen Majors in eleven years, Woods had become something of an immovable object on the podium. Those looking at the latest US Masters betting odds will know this.

Golf courses, including Augusta, were at pains to 'Tiger-proof' their tees, in a bid to slow the player down. However, as fans of golf will no doubt be aware, Woods was the architect of his own demise – and few have fallen quite as far from grace as Tiger managed between mid-2009 and early 2011.

The Masters field underwent a remarkable transformation, as Woods squirmed under the spotlight, with relatively unknown golfers pouring out of the woodwork to claim their maiden title at Augusta.

Charl Schwartzel, Angel Cabrera, Trevor Immelman, Zach Johnson, and Phil Mickelson have all claimed Masters gold since 2007, a date that coincides with a slump in Tiger's form - a decline that would be further exacerbated, two years later, by Woods' now famous battle with the media.

It could be argued, then, that Woods' performance dictates the ebb and flow of the Masters tournament, in much the same way as the Moon pulls at the tides. Tiger's absence from the golf circuit in the late nineties opened up the field at the Masters; could a return to his winning ways of old once again bring down the shutters on his opponents?

As a 7/1 bet to win the Masters, Tiger Woods is on track to claim his fifth title at Augusta. However, mounting pressure from Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Phil Mickelson, and Lee Westwood makes the result of the 2012 Masters a difficult one to call. Expect Tiger to rank highly, but don't be too surprised if a young Irishman takes the silverware, in Georgia.

If nothing else, next year's instalment of the competition will likely indicate, for many, whether Woods is destined for glory, or for another slide into the doldrums of world golf.

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