For the second time in three years, Tiger Woods, who has donned four green jackets, will not participate in the Masters.
Whether he ever does again remains to be seen.
“I think there’s a possibility,” swing coach Hank Haney said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “It’s just a question of whether or not he can get back and he can practice and he can get his game back. Can he practice enough to get his game to a level that is competitive, or will he come out and play even if he’s not competitive? He has said in the past he wouldn’t do that, but then he’s done something different the last two comebacks he’s made. I think he’s going to be able to play again. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that, and his desire is to come back out. Whether or not he will wait to get his game in order before he comes or whether he comes out and tries to kind of play himself into order like he’s done the last two times, that’s the question that remains to be seen. Will he be able to play at any kind of a level that he’s accustomed to? That’s the other question. Any way you slice it, he’s a 40-year-old professional athlete who’s had four knee operations and three back operations, so clearly his better days are not ahead of him; they’re behind him.”
Looking at this year’s Masters in particular, three-time jacket winner Phil Mickelson figures to be in the mix on Sunday, especially since six of the last 13 Masters winners have been lefties.
“He’s got the experience to get around Augusta, especially this week where they’re talking about a lot of wind,” Haney said. “It’s going to be a real test of your patience and a real test of your ability to work your way around the golf course, which he can do as good as any.”
Bubba Watson, who won the Masters in 2012 and 2014, also figures to be near the top of the leaderboard this weekend. So does Rickie Fowler, who might be the best golfer never to win a major.
“I think you got to put him there with Dustin Johnson,” Haney said. “Dustin Johnson has come close, but Rickie Fowler is playing really good this year. He’s putting good. He’s somebody that, when I study it and study the statistics leading up to Augusta, I like the fact that it’s going to be windy. He played golf at Oklahoma State, where it’s very windy. He’s a player who really pops out at me as a player to watch this week. I think your short list would be Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson are the two players who are the best players to have not won a major.”