Johnny Miller says this year’s Masters could be a make-or-break moment for Tiger Woods, and that a victory would get him “back on track” to break Jack Nicklaus’ major record.
“The bottom line is this one, if he can win here and not finish second or third, it’s going to open the floodgates a little bit,” the NBC Sports analyst said Wednesday on Golf Channel.
“He’s already dominating again in regular events. He loves Augusta. It’s tailor-made for him. … The only way he’s not going to win, unless somebody plays great, is just maybe he’s trying too hard.”
Miller says he’ll be paying close attention to how Woods – No. 1 in the Tour’s strokes gained-putting statistic – fares on the greens this week.
“He knows his game is back,” Miller said. “Now the question mark is can he make those same putts? He’s been making everything, but can he make them at Augusta, where he hasn’t been making them for several years?
“That’s been the reason he hasn’t won at Augusta, whether it’s a little bit nerves, getting a little older – I’ve seen never him yip a putt, by the way – because as we get older, a lot of putts start lipping out.
“If he can win at Augusta, he is going to be a tough guy to handle the next few years. I think it makes his year if he can win the Masters. It shows he’s back, that he’s back on track to break Jack’s record. But he’s got to go through Augusta, though.”
As for Rory McIlroy, the No. 2-ranked player in the world, Miller said he was encouraged by the Northern Irishman’s runner-up finish in San Antonio but still doesn’t know what to expect this week.
“I could tell the giddy-up was back in his step; he’s feeling good,” Miller said. “I don’t think he’s thinking he’s the guy to beat, because I don’t think he’s quite there yet. …
“When his game is on, when he’s got his A-game and Tiger has his game, I would say it’s about a dead heat. Rory is a little bit more aggressive than Tiger. … He’s got that ability to go against Tiger, look him in the eye, and I think handle him.”