For the second time in three years, Tiger Woods – 40 and battling injury – will miss the Masters. In fact, whether he ever plays at Augusta National again remains to be seen.
What should our assumptions be surrounding Woods’ future participation – or lack thereof – in majors?
“Unfortunately, we don’t know, so we can all speculate like crazy,” six-time major winner Nick Faldo said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “I really don’t know. It’s a dangerous one to make a call on that one. But there’s just such a mountain to climb. He’s got to physically get himself back into shape – great shape, enough shape where you can go and belt a golf ball as hard as you want to. I can’t imagine Tiger would want to have to be compromised (and playing at less than 100 percent). You can’t really see that, can you? So can he get good enough to just get out there and compete? But what is competing for Tiger? I mean, there’s no point in just making the cut. This is a guy who totally dominated golf. He only plays to win, so if he can’t win, where’s the motivation?
“So yeah, I think he’s at a crossroads,” Faldo continued. “Golf dangles this big carrot right in front of you because if you go and hit balls nicely for a day, you think, ‘Oh, great, I could be a golfer again.’ Even I think of that at my age. I think, ‘Why not? I wish I could do that.’ Unfortunately, you have to be able to get up and down from everywhere and hit shots in lousy weather. It’s such a long haul for him to get back that anything can happen. That’s the bottom line. We really don’y know. Right now it sounds like he wants to repair himself and he’s motivated to try and come back, but will he be ever strong enough to compete again, I’m not sure.”
Looking ahead to this weekend, Faldo said that Henrik Stenson, 40, and Rickie Fowler, 27, are prime candidates to win their first major. Fowler has finished in the top five at all four majors and has runner-ups at both the U.S. Open and the Open Championship on his resume.
“I would love for Rickie Fowler to do it,” Faldo said. “That would be huge for American golf.”
Justin Spieth, meanwhile, will of course be back to defend his Masters crown. Spieth, 22, is on the short list of favorites to win the tournament, even though he isn’t as sharp as he was a year ago.
“There’s always different kinds of pressure,” Faldo said. “I think the pressure that Jordan is probably feeling right now is his game’s just a little off. If you’re not quite swinging and not quite as accurate with your tee shots as you were and scrambling is just not quite as sharp – I would say his game is still a notch down or two from last year. He came in with amazing consistency, churning out good scores, and that’s exactly what he did. And this year, he’s just not quite the same. So that little bit off could make the difference or (maybe) he finds it this week. (Keeping his green jacket) could be a great motivator.”