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Cut Line: Woods 'just there to win' next week at Masters

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It’s never too early to start talking about the Masters and this week’s edition touches on Tiger Woods’ return to Augusta National, the idea of favorites and one player who came up short in his bid to play the year’s first major.

Made Cut

Masters mission. It’s been three years since Tiger Woods wheeled down Magnolia Lane with something more pressing than which fork to use for his salad on his mind.

In 2016 and ’17, injury kept him from playing the year’s first major, but he did attend the annual Champion’s Dinner last year. Given that recent history, his status as the betting favorite for this year’s Masters is a little silly, even to Woods.

“That’s kind of funny. Quite a shift. Six months ago the odds were I wasn’t even going to play,” Woods said this week on his website.

His play in recent weeks, including back-to-back top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour, and his history at Augusta National, where he’s a four-time champion, explain at least part of that betting interest. But if his odds may be a tad misplaced there is a more tangible reason to celebrate Woods’ return to the competitive ranks.

“I got a second chance on life. I am a walking miracle," he said, before adding that his goal is still to leave on Sunday with a fifth green jacket. “I’m just there to win.”

A word on favorites. Following his victory on Sunday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Bubba Watson was asked if Woods should be the favorite for next week’s Masters.

Although he’s won two green jackets and has two victories this season, Watson was quick to dismiss his own chances, although he clearly had ulterior motives.

“I’m not a favorite, I'm going to definitely say that. I'm not a favorite,” he said. “I don't want anybody to talk to me that week, let me just focus on what I've got to do. I'm not going to play well that week, so nobody talk to me.”

But when he was pressed for answer regarding Woods’ status at Augusta National, Watson’s answer was telling.

“If Tiger was sitting next to me, if he says, if I do my job, I'm good enough to beat Bubba. And I'm sitting here and Tiger was right there, if I do my job I'm good enough to beat Tiger,” Watson said. “All golfers are going to say the same thing. Maybe to the media they might sugar coat it.”

So, Tiger’s the favorite?

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

2019 or bust. The 2019 Tour schedule is coming into sharper focus and officials are poised to announce the circuit’s makeover in May at The Players.

“I thought it was going to be very challenging,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said last week of the new schedule. “I knew it would take some time, but I’d say we’re at or ahead of where we thought we’d be.”

Although some of the larger brush strokes have already been established – like the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players shift back to March – some of the more subtle elements are coming into focus.

The Florida swing is poised to regain some much-needed continuity, with the WGC-Mexico Championship moving to the back end of the West Coast swing, followed by the Honda Classic, Arnold Palmer Invitational, Players Championship and Valspar Championship.

The Texas swing, however, will not be as lucky, with the PGA Championship, which will be played at Bethpage Black in New York in 2019, sandwiched between the AT&T Byron Nelson and Fort Worth Invitational.

The Dallas-Fort Worth events have always drawn solid fields because of the tournaments’ proximity to each other and the history of golf in the Metroplex. Whether that draw is enough to inspire players to rack up the airline rewards points bouncing around the country remains to be seen.

Tweet of the week:

Poulter ended up losing his afternoon match on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and did not move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking and qualify for the Masters. Although it is disappointing when the media distributes incorrect information, be it through traditional means or otherwise, there was a simple solution for the Englishman’s plight – play better.

Missed Cut

Book it. Nothing generates interest in golf, and sports, like Tiger Woods, so when a new novel by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian entitled “Tiger Woods” was released last week, there was plenty of chatter.

While the book is rich with detail and wonderfully written, the back and forth between the authors and Woods’ camp has become deafening.

“This book is just a re-hash from older books and articles and it’s hard to tell if there’s anything original at all,” Wood’s long-time manager Mark Steinberg said in the statement. “The author’s claim ‘we seldom quoted anonymous sources’ yet they relied on them at least 65 times.”

This prompted the authors to respond.

“Our book is based on three years of research and reporting, during which we conducted 400 interviews with more than 250 people, many of whom had never talked about their relationship with Tiger before,” the authors said in a statement. “But let us be clear: We stand by the accuracy of our reporting and are proud to have produced a critically acclaimed book that answers a question many have asked for many years: Who is Tiger Woods?”

It was a lofty goal and Benedict and Keteyian’s efforts should be applauded, but it’s become increasingly clear that’s a question only Woods can answer.