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Miller on Woods: Masters will determine 2014 major chances

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The major championship rotation may set up well for Tiger Woods in 2014, but NBC’s Johnny Miller believes a lot will depend on how Woods performs in the year’s first major. 

Miller, speaking Monday in an NBC/Golf Channel media conference call, believes winning a fifth Masters this spring could open the door to Woods winning multiple majors.

“The Masters signals a lot for Tiger,” Miller said. “If he doesn’t win the Masters, I think he gets a great big 'Oh-oh.’ That place is so perfect for him.

“What he does at Augusta is really important. If he were to win at Augusta, I’d almost bet you he’ll win another major this year. But, if he doesn’t win at Augusta, I think the odds of him winning one are not that great.”

When Zach Johnson came from four shots down on the back nine in the final round to beat Tiger Woods at the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge earlier this month, it provided a snapshot of what Miller sees Woods’ new challenge becoming.

“Tiger’s not closing out the deal, and guys aren’t scared, like what Zach Johnson did at Sherwood,” Miller said. “Before, guys just wouldn’t do that against Tiger. So, it's getting much harder for Tiger. Guys aren’t wilting. He’s got a double whammy in that he’s not able to close as well as he used to, and guys are more heroic against him, where they never were before. So, it’s really much, much harder for him.”

Augusta National, Pinehurst No. 2, Royal Liverpool and Valhalla are home to this coming year’s majors. Woods has won the Masters four times. He finished second the last time the U.S. Open was played at Pinehurst in 2005 and tied for third when it was played there in 1999. He won the British Open the last time it was played at Royal Liverpool in ’06, and he won at Valhalla when the PGA Championship was played there in 2000.

While the venues are favorable for Woods in his bid to end a five-year winless spell in majors, Miller sees that drought’s effect.

“He’s just a different player than he was when he was younger,” Miller said. “He won five times last year, but in the majors, he seems to be a little bit prone to being nervous. You never would say that about Tiger. He wants it so badly.”

Woods has been sitting on 14 majors in his bid to break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championship titles since the summer of 2008.

“He had that desire and dream when he was so young.” Miller said. “He looked like he was going to be a shoe-in to get to 18, 19, 20 majors. Now, after five years, it’s like, `Dang, majors are hard to get.’ It’s a great storyline for golf, especially if he gets close to Jack’s record. The ratings would go crazy.”