Before we break down the five reasons Tiger Woods will win the Masters and the five reasons he won't, a quick question:
Have you seen the new Tiger commercial for Nike?
It runs 30 seconds, is in black and white and has Tiger staring straight into the camera (with a "Can you feel the anguish?" face) as we hear the voice of his father, Earl Woods.
"Tiger, I am more prone to be inquisitive, to promote discussion," Earl Woods tells his son in the ad. "I want to find out what your thinking was. I want to find out what your feelings are. Did you learn anything?"
Now, Earl Woods has been dead since 2006. Safe to guess, then, that these comments probably were not in any way related to a sex scandal that would happen 3-1/2 years after his death? I don't think he sat in a recording studio for a week and just gave answers to hypotheticals that could happen down the road.
Low moment for Tiger. Is it so important to make nice with Nike that you are willing to use your dead father as a supporting actor in your image rehab tour? Just when you want to start buying into his sincerity, he pulls something like this.
OK, enough with the moral high ground. I feel like Bill Conlin on "The Sports Reporters." Here are five reasons why Tiger will win the Masters and five reasons he will not ...
FIVE REASONS HE WILL WIN
1. Nobody -- nobody-- has a better record at Augusta. Not Jack Nicklaus, not Arnold Palmer, not Bobby Jones, not even Dan Jenkins. He first played the Masters as a professional in 1997, famously winning by 12 shots. Since then he has won three more times and finished in the top six on five other occasions. Tiger has a career scoring average of 70.9 in his 58 rounds at Augusta, easily the lowest total by any player with at least 25 rounds played.
2. The only other active player that can put his Masters record up next to Tiger's and not get blown away is Phil Mickelson, a two-time winner with 12 top-10 finishes at the tournament (he first played Augusta as a professional in 1993.) But Mickleson has struggled so far in 2010, with just a single top 10 in seven events. I'm more than a little surprised that Lefty hasn't taken advantage of Tiger's absence, I thought it was 50/50 that Mickelson would be the No. 1-ranked player in the world by the time Tiger returned to the tour. Hasn't happened. Mickelson on his 'A' game heading into the Masters might have been too much for a rusty Woods to handle, but it looks like that isn't the case.
3. And if Mickelson isn't at his peak I don't think there is a single player in the world that Tiger even worries about handling, to be honest. Ernie Els? Nice story with a couple of wins this year, but Tiger has had his way with him so many times over the years that you could argue that Ernie was actually Mistress No. 1. Who else is there? Quick, someone compile a list of all the times Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Lee Westwood, Paul Casey, Ian Poulter, Martin Kaymer and Padrig Harrington have stared Tiger down and beat him in a major. That would be zero. And those seven guys, along with Tiger, Ernie and Phil represent the top ten ranked players in the world.
4. Buddhism. And don't forget the bracelet, either. Both have to be worth a couple of shots a side.
5. I think while Tiger Woods the person hates the circus that his life has become Tiger Woods the competitor loves it. It's the ultimate "Us against the world" setup, right? To me, Tiger is the greatest competitor I've ever watched in any sport. And I think, when it comes to his almost pathological need to compete, what has happened over the last five months has been a good thing. Tiger has never had a rival, really, or a challenge. The guy won a U.S. Open one leg. But he has a challenge now. His greatest challenge (Sorry if the last two sentences read like the tag line for "Rocky III.") And he knows that starts Thursday afternoon at 1:42.
FIVE REASONS HE WON'T WIN
1. Simple math, really. Tiger Woods has played in 50 major championships as a professional. He has 14 wins. In golfing parlance, winning 28 percent of the majors you have played in is almost incomprehensible. During that span, Harrington and Mickelson are second behind Tiger with three majors each, to give you an idea as to the level of domination. But that still means that Tiger has lost 72 percent of the majors he has entered as a pro. So while he's a great bet to beat any single player heading into a major, if you take Tiger against the field history shows that you will lose nearly three out of four times.
2. Tiger got the dreaded late Thursday and early Friday tee times. Players like to get out early Thursday for a couple of reasons. The wind usually isn't as big a factor in the morning (and winds up to 30 mph are in the forecast for Thursday afternoon), for one, and the greens always run smoother earlier in the day (not as much play, no spike marks, etc.). If Tiger can shoot anywhere around par on Thursday he'll be in a good spot, but given the tough conditions and all the other factors involved in his first round back, a 75 or 76 is a possibility.
3. No one has ever won the Masters with a former mistress stripping within 100 miles of the course. Not only is Joslyn James bringing her unique skill set to The Pink Pony, it has been reported that she will be dancing with several Elin Nordegren look-a-likes (a list of ladies that, to my knowledge, does not include Elin's twin sister. I could delve deeper into this story, but I know CBS is going to be all over it during weekend coverage. I think Verne Lundquist is actually calling action from the 16th hole in a booth inside the champagne room of the Pony.
4. Maybe the course is Tiger-proof now. He won at Augusta just once in the last seven years (2005), or the same total as immortals such as Zach Johnson, Trevor Immelman and Mike Weir. Sure, he's had a top 10 in each of the last six years, but history is judging Tiger Woods by how many times he finished eighth. So the idea that he isn't the same force at Augusta as he was in his first six years as a pro (three wins) could have some legs if he goes home without the jacket.
5. The dirty little secret about Tiger Woods (pre-sexting era, I mean) has always been that he isn't a good driver of the golf ball. The world's best short game has been his Proactiv, hiding the giant acne scar on his game. Yep, he can bomb it 340 yards, but where is it going? Tiger isn't always sure. Since 2002 he has been outside the PGA Tour's top 100 in driving accuracy in each year but one. If he has a lousy week off the tee, it will be almost impossible to win.