Category: Tiger Woods


March 15, 2013

What was Steve Stricker's putting tip that fixed Tiger Woods?

Posted at 9:02 AM by Brian Manzella

Stricker-TigerJust one big victory by a talented student can make the career of a teacher. That was certainly the case last week at the WGC Cadillac Championship at Doral. Tiger Woods took only 100 putts en route to a two-shot victory. It was a career-low for Tiger in a 72-hole event.

In this case the "teacher" of record was none other than tournament runner-up Steve Stricker. His early-week advice to Tiger on the Doral putting green certainly helped Woods win the event, and whether Stricker wanted the credit or not, he got it. I'm sure his phone is ringing right now with someone else who would love some magic dust to be sprinkled on him as well.

Obviously, he's playing a limited schedule this year and has quite a few dollars socked away for a rainy day, so I doubt that Stricker is looking to become the Tour's next Stan Utley. But in the upside-down world of golf instruction, you can be a hero or a goat in five minutes -- or one tournament.

The lesson consisted of a slight weakening of Tiger's left-hand grip and getting his hands a bit more forward at address.

Why could this help so much so soon?

Tiger uses a lot of face rotation in his stroke, both on the takeaway and the follow-through. When the grip is too strong, it is far too easy to over-rotate the face and miss putts to the left. Just think about some of the golfers who have used strong grips -- LeeTrevino, Paul Azinger, David Duval. They all hit fades because it is easier to hold the face off with a strong grip. A full-swing face-rotator supreme? Try Corey Pavin. He had the weakest grip on Tour for a long time.

Having the hands too far back on the putting stroke can have an even more detrimental effect for Woods. That would add loft and make it way too easy to close the face too soon, which would cause the ball to roll out differently than he is used to.

My dime-store analysis is that with his grip strong and his hands back, it was difficult for Tiger to close the face on his follow-through. Tiger normally closes the face a lot with his putter when he's putting well. Now that Dr. Stricker has him back to where he needs to be at address, the putts are dropping again for Tiger.

RELATED: SI's Best Shots of Tiger's Win at Doral

RELATED: See Tiger's Winning Clubs from Doral

(Photos: Alan Diaz / AP)

 

May 07, 2012

Top 100 Teachers Poll: Will Sean Foley be Tiger Woods's coach at the end of 2012?

Posted at 1:38 PM by Golf.com

After Tiger Woods missed the cut at the Wells Fargo Championship, we asked Golf Magazine's Top 100 Teachers if they thought Tiger would stay with swing coach Sean Foley through the end of the year.

Here's what the Top 100 Teachers said:

Top100_seanfoley

Comments:

"Mr. Foley will be another casualty of the wrath of El Tigre. Next up Moe, Larry and Curly. Curly handles the short game." --Tom Patri, Tom Patri Golf Services, Naples, Fla.

"What they are working on is actually 'stuff.' Tiger will get it going again soon." --Mike Adams, Hamilton Farm Golf Club, Gladstone, N.J.

"Tiger has never had a stretch like this and it will lead to their downfall." --Bryan Gathright, Oak Hills Country Club, San Antonio, Texas

"Even for Tiger, golf is like farming, not school. Results come by following a rigorous process and not by cramming. Tiger's current stats, 19th in GIR and 2nd in total driving, are a lot better than his being 167th and 192nd at the end of 2010, and the stats point to his 'crop' being ready to reap before long." --Dom DiJulia, Dom DiJulia School of Golf, New Hope, Pa.

"Sean is dealing with a lot of old issues with Tiger's swing. Give him credit for trying to get Tiger's wrists fractionally cupped and his shaft in better position." --Rick Smith, Treetops Resort, Gaylord, Mich.

"Yes, but may not make it long into 2013." --Krista Dunton, Berkeley Hall, Bluffton, S.C.

"Tiger will give it at least through the Masters 2013 to see if Foley's 'method' can work." --Ed Ibarguen, Duke University Golf Club, Durham, N.C.

"Sean has done his job extremely well. Now it is up to Tiger to get out of his own way." --Bruce Patterson, Butler National Golf Course, Oak Brook, Ill.

"What's working for Hunter Mahan and Justin Rose is not working for Tiger. Tiger needs to make up with Butch and return to getting back to basics. Now, Tiger's mind is way too cluttered to play consistent golf." --Ted Sheftic, Bridges Golf Club, Abbottstown, Pa.

"Woods hasn't fixed the driver, and his distance control with irons is still suspect. The root cause: he's too steep on his downswing." --Kip Puterbaugh, The Aviara Golf Academy, Carlsbad, Calif.

"Yes, but it won't be a good decision unless Foley gets off swing mechanics and starts helping Tiger to play the game." --Keith Lyford, Golf Academy at Old Greenwood, North Lake Tahoe, Calif.

"Frustration will cause him to change." --Jim Murphy, Sugar Creek Country Club, Sugar Land, Texas

"Foley is just not getting the job done. It is crazy to think how many wins Woods would have if he had not changed from near the perfection of the 2000 season." --Eric Johnson, Oakmont Country Club, Oakmont, Pa.

"Nothing against Sean, but Tiger is starting to understand that he needs to play his way back to the top. Nobody can think their way through a two-second motion. Golf by the numbers just doesn't work." --Jim Suttie, Cog Hill Golf & Country Club, Lemont, Ill.

"Tiger doesn't need a coach. He needs to start playing golf again, instead of playing golf-swing. I personally do not think the 'move' he is trying to do goes with his body or framework." --Chuck Evans, Gold Canyon Golf Resort, Golf Canyon, Ariz.

"Yes. Who would he go to next?" --Mike Bender, Magnolia Plantation Golf Club, Lake Mary, Fla.

"I suppose. Tiger is pretty stubborn, and Foley says that Woods is only two years away from where he wants him." --Jerry Mowlds, Pumpkin Ridge Golf Course, North Plains, Ore.

January 23, 2012

Top 100 Teachers Poll: What to expect from Tiger in 2012

Posted at 11:15 AM by Golf.com

The 2011 season ended in a ‘24’-style cliffhanger with Tiger winning the Chevron. Back playing this week, will Tiger continue his winning way in 2012? Can he still break Jack’s record? Did former coach and current biographer Hank Haney breach Tiger’s trust. We asked our Top 100 Teachers for the real story. Here's what they said:

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Comments: 

"I would absolutely bet more if I had it." --David Glenz, Crystal Springs Resort, Hamburg, N.J

"No, but that is only because I would never bet that amount on anything. I still think he has a shot at it." --Dom DiJulia, Dom DiJulia School of Golf, New Hope, Pa.  

"I would bet my house on Tiger breaking Jack's record 18 majors. When Tiger is done he will own 24 majors." --Mike Adams, Hamilton Farm Golf Club, Gladstone, N.J.


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Comments:

"If it’s all about golf, then don't teachers share their knowledge to help others become better? If it’s not about golf then its weak." --Jim Murphy, Sugar Creek Country Club, Sugar Land, Texas 

"He is being selfishly opportunistic. His ego is far beyond his teaching knowledge." --David Glenz, Crystal Springs Resort, Hamburg, N.J

"Not unless he wants to lose all credibility and make some tabloid $$$." --Joe Hallet, PGA Center for Learning and Performance, Port St. Lucie, Fla. 

"Hank's claim that the book covers part of golf history has validity but we'll have to see how far he goes...it will all depend on the content for me." –-Dom DiJulia, Dom DiJulia School of Golf, New Hope, Pa.

"Why not? I can't wait to read it." --Steve Bosdosh, The Members Club at Four Streams, Beallsville, Md.    

"I would have to think that Tiger did more for Hank's career than Hank did for Tiger's. Pretty sure the Golf Channel wouldn't do a Haney Project if Hank was teaching me instead of Tiger." --Jason Carbone, Baltusrol Golf Club, Springfield, N.J.     

"Why would an instructor write a book about any student? The intimacy of a relationship that long and well-known should remain private. I compare it to a spouse writing a book about their well-known partner following a divorce." –-David Wright, Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club‎, Mission Viejo, Calif.

"Yes, unless he's allergic to making a ton money." --Tom Stickney, Big Horn Golf Club, Palm Desert, Calif.

 

Graph4

Comments:

"He can still control his trajectory and distance at an elite level." –-Jason Carbone, Baltusrol Golf Club, Springfield, N.J. 

"I don't see him as having a dominate part of his game at this time." --Ed Ibarguen, Duke University Golf Club, Durham, N.C.

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This story was produced for Golf Magazine's weekly Front9 app. To keep up with the latest golf news, get great tips from the Top 100 Teachers in America, and weekly Rules Guy columns, download the Front9 app at the Apple iTunes store. A lifetime subscription is $2.99.

 

December 05, 2011

Top 100 Teachers Poll: Tiger Woods vs. Rory McIlroy

Posted at 3:31 PM by Golf.com

Two of the Tour’s biggest stars won on Sunday. Tiger Woods finished birdie-birdie to take the Chevron World Challenge in Southern California, and Rory McIlroy came from three strokes back at the European Tour's Hong Kong Open. We asked the Golf Magazine Top 100 Teachers which player would have the better year in 2012:

Tiger_rory

Comments:
"My guess is Rory, but I am confused at where he has been since the Open. I have heard more about his girlfriend than his golf. Tennis anyone!" --Eric Johnson, Oakmont Country Club, Oakmont, Pa.

"McIlroy has learned how to deal with pressure." --Glen Deck, Pelican Hill Resort, Newport Coast, Calif.

"I think the worldwide schedule will catch up to Rory." --Peter Krause, Hank Haney International Junior Golf Academy, Hilton Head, S.C.

"Tiger. Just look in his eyes. He has really missed the limelight as a winner." --Charlie King, Reynolds Plantation, Greensboro, Ga.

"Woods still has to prove himself in a major. I believe he still has majors in his bag, but not yet." --David Wright, Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club, Mission Viejo, Calif.

"If defining a better season is money earned, Tiger will earn more money, just because he will be in the hunt more often. If you say it's on more wins, without a doubt Rory will have more wins worldwide." --Shawn Humphries, Cowboys Golf Club, Grapevine, Texas

MORE FROM THE TOP 100 TEACHERS...

How many majors will Tiger win in 2012?
Zero -- 36 percent
One -- 55 percent
Two -- 9 percent

Comments:
"Tiger is not out of the woods yet. He beat 17 guys that were out for a nice payday. Let's see him win a full field event, and then we will start talking majors." --Eric Johnson, Oakmont Country Club, Oakmont, Pa.

"Tiger will win one major. I believe he will be ready for Augusta." --Jason Carbone, Baltusrol Golf Club, Springfield, N.J.

"None. He used to miss it to the right, now he misses it to the left!" --Craig Shankland, LPGA International, Daytona Beach, Fla.

"One, if he starts rolling the rock like he used too." --Glenn Deck, Pelican Hill Resort, Newport Coast, Calif.

"A win over 18 players does not mean Tiger is back!" --Jim Murphy, Sugar Creek Country Club, Sugar Land, Texas

"Just because he won a hit-and-giggle event with a couple of foursomes doesn't mean he's back to form." --Steve Bosdosh, The Members Club at Four Streams, Beallsville, Md.

"I don't think Tiger will win a Major this year. These guys are not scared of Tiger." --Shawn Humphries, Cowboys Golf Club, Grapevine, Texas

"Tiger will win one. The Masters." --Nancy Quarcelino, Kings Creek Golf Club, Spring Hill, Tenn.  

"If he wins a major, I'm thinking it will be the PGA. He’s still not hitting it quite well enough for the other majors." --Chuck Evans, Gold Canyon Golf Resort, Golf Canyon, Colo.

November 21, 2011

Don't Get Too Excited About Tiger's Play Down Under

Posted at 10:37 PM by Brady Riggs

Tiger-brady-blogTiger Woods played great in his clinching singles match against Aaron Baddeley at last week’s Presidents Cup. He played so great that it’s tempting to pronounce that Tiger has returned from his slump and will soon retake his rightful place as the world’s No. 1 golfer. However, we just don’t have enough evidence to say that yet.

Don’t get me wrong. Tiger is going in the right direction. He played well on a difficult Royal Melbourne course, and except for one round he was excellent at the Australian Open the week before. I’ve been hearing that he’s been having a lot of 36-hole and 54-hole practice days, and that’s just what he needs to get in tournament form. If Tiger is healthy and playing often, he’ll be good with whatever swing he uses -- he can’t help it -- but we shouldn’t read too much into how Tiger played at the Presidents Cup and the Australian Open.

The first reason is that the Presidents Cup is a match-play event. Remember how he dusted Francesco Molinari at the 2010 Ryder Cup? That didn’t mark the beginning of Tiger’s comeback. In fact, things got worse the following year. If I were picking someone to play one match, I’d choose Tiger 100 times before I picked another guy. With his six USGA amateur match-play titles (three U.S. Junior Amateurs and three U.S. Amateurs), he might be the best match-play golfer in history. In match play, Tiger is always going to find a way to compete no matter how he’s striking the ball.

The other reason not to overreact to Tiger’s play in Australia is that the tournaments weren’t that important. Let’s be honest. The Presidents Cup is nothing like the Ryder Cup, which inspires so much passion and bad blood. The Presidents Cup is exactly what it was intended to be, an exhibition of sportsmanship to promote the game globally. That’s admirable, but as a gauge of where Tiger’s game is, the Presidents Cup is pretty meaningless.

We all know that Tiger keeps score with major championships, and until we see him execute his new swing under major pressure, we won’t know if the changes have worked. The true test is whether he can rely on his swing under the pressure of a major on Sunday. Sure, he looks a lot more comfortable with his swing changes now, but they haven’t been tested by fire yet. I don’t think we can make any judgments based on a couple of decent rounds in Australia.

If you’re a Tiger fan like I am, there were reasons for optimism last week. For one, he looked healthy and he was moving around the course better. I thought his short game looked better. The putting wasn’t totally there -- I saw him miss an important putt low that he would have made a much better run at before -- but these things will come in time. He also looks like he’s having fun. It was telling to see Tiger and Mickelson yukking it up. In the past, Tiger wouldn’t let his guard down like that, at least not publicly. It’s nice to see Tiger animated and enjoying the team camaraderie.

So when will we know if Tiger is back? Everything we know about Tiger tells us he’s focused on April 2012. It ought to be fun to watch. Everybody loves a comeback story, but this one hasn’t really started yet.

(Photo: Brandon Malone/Reuters)

This column originally appeared in Golf Magazine's weekly Front9 app. To keep up with the latest golf news, get great tips from the Top 100 Teachers in America, and weekly Rules Guy columns, download the Front9 app at the Apple iTunes store. A lifetime subscription is $2.99.

October 10, 2011

Tiger Woods should add events to 'slacker' schedule

Posted at 6:31 PM by Brady Riggs

Oct9-tiger-woods-t3_372x248 Last week I thought a healthy and rested Tiger Woods might do something special at the Frys.com Open at CordeValle. In the end, Tiger probably gets a C+ or B- for his T30 finish, nothing that will get his fans or his doubters too encouraged. He was a little erratic, which is not surprising considering he hadn't played a competitive round since August.

Every time Tiger doesn't play well he blames his putting, but a look at the stats tells another story. His putting was fine -- he was in ninth in putting average -- but the rest of his game was pretty blah. Twenty-second in driving distance isn't great against that field. He didn't hit a ton of greens (43rd in greens in regulation), and outside of his putting his short game was iffy at best (50th in scrambling from the rough; 62nd in sand-save percentage).

I'm sure the most important thing for Tiger was that he felt healthy, but it's amazing how much we've lowered our expectations. Think about it for a minute. Tiger Woods just finished 30th in a Fall Series event, and we think that's pretty good. Even he appears pleased about it. Two years ago, that would have been unthinkable. Tiger used to look at second place like a set of steak knives, and now he's happy with playing a little better every day. He's just not the same guy he used to be, which is why he can't keep playing the schedule he used to play.

We can argue all day about swing theory and Sean Foley vs. Hank Haney vs. Butch Harmon, but no one could seriously say that Tiger doesn't need to play more. Tiger talks about his need for "reps," but except for the Frys.com Open he's not inclined to add any more tournaments to his schedule. It's inexplicable. If you need the reps, then play. He's in desperate need of tournament experience, but he still wants to keep the boutique schedule he maintained when he was on top of the game. Play Disney. Play every event you can. The truth is that Tiger needs his competitive edge back, and he's not going to find it at his private club or his backyard practice course.

I teach a lot of junior golfers, and they all go through a process. First, they shoot in the 80s, then the 70s, then they start breaking par, and then I'll get a call, "I'm in the lead, Brady." We all know what happens next: they fall on their face and shoot 78. Everybody does, because it takes time to learn how to play under pressure and how to win. I'm not sure Tiger remembers how to do that anymore. He needs to build himself back. He needs to feel what it's like to get in contention, to sleep with the lead and to play under pressure on Sunday. He's acting like he can just show up at Augusta in April and do all those things again, but he won't be able to unless he's replicated all those experiences in competition. Just imagine what the buzz will be like around Tiger the next time he's leading a major. He needs to get reacquainted with that feeling, but he's not playing enough to be sharp enough to win major championships right now.

One thing that was made very clear last week is how important Tiger is to our game. I work at a public course in Southern California, and we're hurting. We used to have two- or three-hour delays, and now hardly anybody is here hitting balls. Our rounds are down 40 percent. I know it's mostly due to the economy, but when Tiger is playing you can feel the increase in interest. It's palpable. I mean, someone throws a hot dog at him and it's bigger news than Keegan Bradley winning the PGA Championship. Tiger gets people excited about golf, and that's why almost everybody in the game is pulling for his comeback. In many cases our livelihoods depend on it.

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Brady Riggs is director of instruction at Woodley Lakes Golf Club in Van Nuys, Calif.

This story originally appeared in the Golf Magazine Front9 App. To download the weekly app, visit the Apple iTunes store.

(Photo: Robert Galbraith/Reuters)

October 04, 2011

Get ready to fist-pump, Tiger fans!

Posted at 3:16 PM by Brady Riggs

Tigersback_brady Tiger Woods returns to the PGA Tour this week and for once it’s not a moment too soon.

In the last couple years, Tiger has been repeatedly sidelined by scandal, injuries, marital problems -- we all know the list -- and each time he returned it felt like he was rushing back from something. The 2010 Masters. The 2011 Players Championship. The 2011 PGA Championship. When he returns this week at the Frys.com Open at CordeValle in Northern California, he’ll be coming back on his own timetable.

The dust has finally settled, and I expect Tiger to play well. Everything points toward a good week for Tiger. He’s now had plenty of time to work with new swing coach Sean Foley. If it’s going to work with Foley, then we should start to see it this week. I know it was only a practice round, but that 62 he shot last week at Medalist is a auspicious. The caddie change is good for him too. His relationship with Steve Williams obviously had gotten stale, and Joe LaCava, an experienced caddie whom Tiger knows and respects, is the perfect replacement.

The venue is a great place for him as well. No disrespect to the Frys.com Open, but Tiger won’t have to deal with the pressure of a major this week. Nor will he dominate the media coverage. This isn’t northern Wisconsin; the Bay Area has a lot of other things going on. Tiger should be swinging more comfortably than he has in a long time.

I’ll be watching three things extra-closely this week that should show if Tiger’s on the right path.

1. His driver: I want to see him going at the ball hard and not losing tee shots to the right

2. His health: He should be as healthy as he’s ever going to be. He turns 36 this December -- can you believe that? -- and it never gets any easier coming back from injury. Basically, he’s learning to deal with things that basically hurt all the time.

3. His short game: If he’s going to come back, it’s crucial he look comfortable on and around the greens. We always talk about Phil Mickelson’s brilliance in the short game -- and Mickelson is spectacular -- but when Tiger is on his game no one comes close to his chipping and pitching.

I’m not predicting a win. There’s going to be some rust -- how could there not be -- but I expect him to play well, as well as we’ve seen in a long time. (The Masters is a special case because he’ll always be able to compete on that course.) He’s going to hit some loose shots -- that’s inevitable with a hard swing. The important thing is that he misses correctly. At the height of his game, Tiger could make birdies and pars with his short game from places no one thought possible. His problem this year is that he’s been missing in the wrong places, places where he couldn’t recover from.

It is strange to see Tiger at a Fall Series event. In a lot of ways, it feels like 1996 all over again. His critics in the media and the public aren’t giving him a free pass anymore. Tiger knows a lot of people are writing him off, and I think he feels he has a lot to prove. Even I’ve been skeptical based on what I saw earlier in the year. But this is the perfect scenario: new swing, new caddie, easy tournament. He’s going out there to get his game back. Those of us who’ve watched him since his junior golf days want to see signs that he’s going in the right direction and some flashes of the old Tiger Woods. I don’t want to see him hitting houses, making poor chips, and missing four-footers. If that happens again, it’s time to start really worrying.

[Photo credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/The Augusta Chronicle/ZUMAPRESS.com]

 

This story originally appeared in the Golf Magazine Front9 App. To download the weekly app, visit the Apple iTunes store.

April 13, 2010

Anger is the impediment Tiger needs to remove

Posted at 3:36 PM by Carol Preisinger

Springtime at the Masters, and the wind wasn't the only thing bringing impediments to the hallowed grounds of Augusta National. Like all of us, pro golfers have to jump hurdles every day in life, the kind that are not so loose and easily brushed aside.

Freddie has his back issues, Phil carries concerns about his wife's health, and Tiger brings his history of, well, all of that. These issues can't be tossed aside so easily like a piece of pine tree in the line of a putt. As Tiger Woods returned to competitive golf, the wonder of the Masters became clouded by doubt for some, and sprinkled with hope for others. But the skies quickly gave way to warmth and sunshine as golf fans welcomed him back with few penalties.

The question that began this Masters was, "Will humiliation impede Tiger's mental game?" It didn't, but his temper did. Anger creates stress, stress creates tension, and tension impedes motion. Phil didn't appear too upset when a pollen stamen, out of nowhere, landed in his line and deflected his birdie putt on No. 3. If that happened to Tiger, we might have heard, "G-----it, pollen, you s---!"

Many players compete every week while dealing with challenges. It's tough to empty your  head and make the gremlins go away, but if Tiger truly has a clear conscience now, free of all impediments, he should be able to  leave behind the outbursts we've come to know him for.

Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said it best: "His future will never again be measured only by his performance against par but by the sincerity of his efforts to change." Please, Tiger, as part of your transformation, learn to accept the bad shots and show some control on the golf course. It will help the fans believe in you again, and it will help your game, too.

Come on, Tiger, learn from your behavior, and stay away from the hazards -- after all, you can't remove loose impediments in there.

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Carol Preisinger is director of instruction at the Kiawah Golf Club in Kiawah Island, S.C.

March 23, 2010

Suttie: Woods can't win Masters after 5-month layoff

Posted at 9:44 AM by Jim Suttie, Ph.D.

Tiger-Woods-Jim-Suttie-Masters Tiger Woods will finish in the top 10 at the Masters, but he won't contend for the title. It would be too much for even Woods to return after a five-month layoff and play at peak form on the world's fastest greens under the most intense pressure. Woods just won't be tuned into the competitive mindset that a Tour player needs to win. You can only get that  through playing in tournaments. He needed to play at least once before Augusta.

Here's where Woods's game stands going into the Masters...

Driving: This has always been the weakest part of his game. But because Augusta has such wide fairways, spraying the driver won't hurt Woods. He can hit it all over the place and still do well.

Irons: Woods has always been very precise with long and short irons. After weeks of practice, he'll be tuned up enough to shoot for the subsections of Augusta's greens. This will be a big strength.

Putting: It's the strongest part of his game. Woods is the best putter on Tour. But putting will be Woods's nemesis at Augusta. The only way to make putts under pressure is to be used to doing it. At the Masters, he will have doubts on the greens. He hasn't seen a putt that matters in a long time, and he won't be able to cultivate that confidence overnight.

Short Game: Woods should be about the same as always with his chipping and pitching, meaning he'll be superb. It's easier to retain and rejuvenate your short game than your putting. Chips and pitches involve a quicker, less stressful action than putts, so these shots aren't as prone to yips and mental gaffes.

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Jim Suttie, Ph.D., coaches the men's golf team at Florida Gulf Coast University and teaches at the Club at TwinEagles in Naples, Fla.

March 16, 2010

Tiger Woods will be favorite to win the Masters

Posted at 4:38 PM by Brady Riggs

Johnny Miller said last week that Tiger Woods needed to play a warm-up tournament like Bay Hill to have a chance at winning the Masters. Well, Johnny never won the Masters, so maybe he doesn't know everything.

Just kidding, Johnny. I never won the Masters either (sigh!), but Augusta National is the best place for Woods to return and he'll be the favorite even in his first event back. Why? Because Woods is by far the best player in the world. As the Tour has proved this year with its winner of the week, we have a lot of really good players who are very close to each other and then we have Woods, the only player who can win when he doesn't have his best game. Phil Mickelson is probably the closest to Woods and Mickelson's not within a light year of him.

Remember, this isn't an injury comeback. Woods should feel fine physically and, according to the guys on Tour who've seen him at the range, he's hitting the ball well. For an elite athlete in a time of personal crisis, your sport is the one place where you're totally comfortable. For any of us, the first tee at Augusta National would be a terrifying place, but for Woods it's comforting. Playing will  be like therapy for him. He needs to get back into his rhythm of preparing, working out and competing. That's how he's going to get his life back to normal.

The Augusta National course itself is ideal for his return because he's had so much success here and because it's not as taxing off the tee as a U.S. Open track. At Augusta National, Woods can afford to make a few mistakes and take advantage of his length in a way he couldn't do at a U.S. Open. If he was going to return at a major, Augusta makes the most sense.

The one thing I'll be watching for is Woods's distance control with his irons. If you're not playing much and not traveling to different courses, your distance control can get erratic. Anyone can hit full 7-irons on the range, but how often do you get that shot on the course? Maybe one out of every four shots. Usually, you're dealing with those "tweeners." If Woods is out of practice, that's the one thing that will hurt him because Augusta National is a second-shot golf course. You need to control your yardages there to make birdies because you're not going to make 40-foot putts on those greens. Woods didn't three-putt once when he won here in 1997 because his distance control with his irons was otherworldly.

Woods will still hold the psychological edge that made him so tough to beat. The guy has been so strong mentally for so many year that it's hard to imagine he'll just all of a sudden start making mental mistakes. Plus, I think he's going to find some extra motivation in his recent troubles. Y.E. Yang beat Woods last year in a gutsy performance at the PGA Championship, but that red shirt on Sunday will still intimidate a lot of guys.

It's sure going to be fun.

Top 100 Teacher Brady Riggs is the director of instruction at Woodley Lakes Golf Club in Van Nuys, Calif. He also hosts the Ask the Top 100 Live instruction chat on Golf.com.


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