By RANDALL MELL
Tiger Woods can’t win this Masters.
I don’t believe I just typed that sentence, because it’s always been such a lousy bet against him winning anything he really wants to win.
We’ve seen Woods do the nearly impossible more than once. We’ve seen him win the U.S. Open by 15 shots and win the U.S. Open on a broken leg and blown-out knee. We’ve seen him win the Masters by 12 shots and win four consecutive major championships.
But this feels more like Woods’ comeback for the U.S. Open at Winged Foot in 2006 after his father’s death. He shot a pair of 76s and missed the cut. Playing there was harder than playing on a broken leg. Something internal was broken and still needed mending when he arrived.
You wonder what internal injuries still need mending this time. You wonder if a champion can tear something worse than cartilage and ligaments. You wonder if the confidence and sense of self worth woven into his nature as a champion are torn. If anything stops Woods from winning this Masters, you wonder if it will be rust or regret. The latter might make him a better person but worse player.
By REX HOGGARD
Good comedy Tuesday morning on Ladrokes.com, the betting site of choice for golf writers everywhere. In the moments after Tiger Woods announced he will return to the competitive fold at next month’s Masters his odds at the year’s first major flashed on the screen – 4-to-1.
That’s not to say a guy with a green jacket for every season (four) isn’t a favorite to cash Grand Slam glory every time he motors down Magnolia Lane, but one normally saves those kinds of odds for mortal locks.
We stopped betting against Woods when he limped past the field at the 2008 U.S. Open, but this time is different. This time he arrives at Butler Cabin with more emotional baggage than a Kardashian and with a game that, although looks splendid on the Isleworth turf, has been largely dormant since he drove his SUV into every immovable obstruction in his neighborhood.
Make no mistake, it is a personal, not professional, necessity that drives Woods down Magnolia Lane for his 2010 opener without a tune-up and under something less than ideal conditions.
Can Woods win? Of course. Will he win? We wouldn’t bet on it, at least not at those odds.