According to Vegasinsider.com, Rory McIlroy is the man to beat at the Masters next week, currently listed as an 8-to-1 shot. No surprise there, McIlroy just won the Players Championship last month.
But also among the faves is 43-year old Tiger Woods, who checked in 12-1 as of Friday. And with that in mind, here are some thoughts to consider as one ponders that bet.
One, Woods has not won a major championship in 11 years — or since the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. You remember 2008, right? That was the year they played the NHL All-Star Game in Atlanta … no really.
Moreover, it has been 14 years since Woods won at Augusta. Ah yes, 2005, seems like just yesterday. “Deep Throat” was revealed, YouTube was launched, David Schwimmer was actingand the Patriots won a Super Bowl … OK, maybe it was just yesterday.
S’true, no major championship offers higher value on local knowledge than the Masters and Woods certainly knows his way around Green Acres. If he prevails, it will be his fifth green jacket. Only Jack Nicklaus’ wardrobe (six) is more extensive.
But several other trends stand in Woods’ way. It has been 21 years since someone in his 40s won a Masters, or since Mark O’Meara (41) visited Butler Cabin in 1998. The average age of a Masters champion is 32½, which is somewhere between Jason Day (31) and Webb Simpson (33).
What’s more, only two men have ever won a Masters past their 43rd birthday. Ben Crenshaw was 43 when he channeled Harvey Penick in 1995 and, of course, Jack Nicklaus was 46 when he fused a yellow shirt and plaid pants to win in 1986.
In that context, this appears to be an operative year for Woods. The longest anyone has gone between major championship victories is 11 years. Henry Cotton waited that long between British Opens (1937 and 1948). Julius Boros won U.S. Opens in 1952 and 1963. Hale Irwin got his second and third U.S. Opens in 1979 and 1990, and Crenshaw won Masters in 1984 and 1995.
So go ahead, don’t let that 146th ranking on putts inside 10 feet scare you. This could be the week Woods finally gets that 15th major. You can bet on it.
◼ According to Variety, NBA star Steph Curry is teaming with ABC to produce and star in a miniature-golf competition — a show entitled Holey Moley. Episodes will feature three rounds of mini-golf, with three finalists tackling “Mt. Holey Moley” for a $25,000 prize, a trophy, and a plaid jacket. Comedian Rob Riggle will do color commentary, NFL commentator Joe Tessitore will handle play-by-play, and Jeanie Mai from The Real will report from the sidelines.
Presumably, Rick Reilly will write about anyone who cheats.
◼ Zoe Campos, 16, was in the press room on Wednesday at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. Campos acknowledged it was her first press conference. When asked if she enjoyed it, she answered, “No, not really. But kind of, at the same time.”
In other words, it’s like Polynesian food.
◼ According to stats, 48-year old Phil Mickelson has improved his swing speed this year, from 116.48 miles per hour in 2018 to 120.78 mph more recently. Mickelson, 24th in PGA Tour Driving Distance, went to Instagram to demonstrate a secret to getting more speed/distance — and no, it’s not “swing harder.”
2019 USGA RULES QUIZ
What is the proper way to drop a ball?
A. Usually, if you hit it right below the temple, it will go down.
B. Be in Times Square on Dec. 31, wait until midnight, the ball will drop on its own.
C. Hit it to Kyle Schwarber, he will drop it for sure.
D. Drop it from knee height; the ball cannot hit the player or their clothing.
Remember that bumpy, crusty 18th green at Chambers Bay on Sunday in 2015? You know, the one Dustin Johnson three-putted to coronate Jordan Spieth as the U.S. Open champion.
What Johnson wouldn’t give to replay those waning moments today, eh?
That’s because the greens at Chambers Bay no longer look like chipped beef on toast. The public facility near Seattle, which will host the 2021 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, has re-invented itself, opening its new poa greens to rave reviews earlier this week.
Michael Putnam, who missed the cut in 2015 and currently competes on the Web.com Tour, was among the first to take a test drive. The Tacoma, Wash. native told KJR-AM 950 Radio that, four years later, it’s a whole different experience.
“The greens during the Open were the worst greens I’ve ever played in a professional goal tournament,” said Putnam, who turned pro in 2005. And now?
“For the first time, you could line up 5-, 10- 15-footers and if you executed correctly in your stroke, and you putted the right speed and you threw on the right line, the ball actually went in the hole,” he added. “The greens were pure, they were smooth, there was no bumpiness to them.”
Perhaps it’s safe now. Perhaps, one day, the U.S. Open will return to Chambers Bay. But sorry, DJ, those putts you hit on the lunar surface back in 2015 … the 12-footer … even the 4-footer … can’t have ‘em back.