Hey, I’m the biggest Tiger fan in the world (well, maybe besides Elin), but it’s out of his reach, I’d say.
If Woods somehow comes back from six strokes down to win at Augusta today, I’m sure it would rival Jack’s ’86 triumph where he shot 29 on the back nine to win by one.
I know they’re calling for 20-25 MPH winds there today and “the experts” are saying, “that could help the guys who are trying to come from off the pace…” but I guess I don’t quite understand that. You mean, when Woods is hitting his 2nd shot into the 5th green the winds are going to die down?
Of course, for Tiger to win today, someone (or two, or three) above him on the leaderboard would have to collapse, the way Seve Ballesteros did in ’86 when he frittered away a 3-shot lead on the back nine and silver-plattered the green jacket to Nicklaus. Nick Faldo started the day six shots back of Greg Norman in 1996 and wound up winning by five when Norman played as if he were in the 2nd flight of the Mountain Branch Club Championship en route to a 78, but that was ONE guy that Faldo had to leapfrog. Woods has to play sterling golf and hope that none of the four guys above him play well too.
Nicklaus did it in ’86, warding off Seve, Norman and Tom Kite.
Unlike 1986, though, I don’t see Trevor Immelman, Brandt Snedeker, Steve Flesch and Paul Casey ALL throwing up on themselves on the back nine and allowing Woods to steal his 5th title. And, of course, Woods would have to put up another 68 or maybe even a 67 or 66 just to be in position to take the lead if a few of the leaders stumble.
So, who wins?
Immelman has certainly played the best golf of anyone through 3 rounds…which makes sense, since he’s leading, right? Snedeker is the guy who won’t go away and seems sort of unfazed by it all even though it’s only his 2nd Masters. Flesch is a TOUR veteran who’s never really lived up to all of his promise and hasn’t ever been in position to win at Augusta before. Same for Paul Casey, who wielded a hot putter yesterday and shared the lead at one point before falling back late on the back nine.
If Woods has one thing going for him, it’s that the four guys above him on the leaderboard have NEVER been in this position before. It’s one thing to buzz around that place in 68 or 69 on Thursday or Friday, it’s another thing to do it on Sunday afternoon with the whole world watching.
If you don’t think even the easiest of shots can get treacherous on Sunday at Augusta, just go back to the aforementioned 1986 Masters when Ballesteros hit a 190-yard 5-iron about 178 yards dead left into the water left of the 15th green.
Woods has hit more pressure packed shots at Augusta in his 14 visits there than Immelman, Snedeker, Flesch and Casey have – combined…x 5.
But, that doesn’t mean Tiger is going to win. He probably won’t, in fact. It would take a historic run, something like a front nine 32, leaving him one or two back, and then a back-nine 32 or 33 that also features a couple of meltdowns by guys stationed ahead of him on the leaderboard.
In 1986, Nicklaus woke up and had breakfast with his son, who was caddying for him. Jackie said to his dad, “What’s it gonna take pop?” and Nicklaus said, “66 is a playoff, 65 wins it.”
Tiger is probably looking at a similar scenario. 65 – taking him to 12-under – might just be good enough providing that Immelman and Snedeker both scoot around there in 71 or 72.
But, if Immelman and Snedeker both shoot something in the 60’s, Tiger can’t win.
If I had $10 to bet today, I’d bet it on Immelman.
He’d be a great story, five or so months away from having a benign tumor removed from his ribcage. He spent five days waiting for word from his doctors on the condition of the tumor once it was discovered. Those five days make the back nine at Augusta seem like a walk in the park, huh?
I’ll be rooting for Woods, hard, but the deficit looks like it’s too much to overcome.
I know this, I’d sure like to hear Verne Lundquist’s call at 16 if Woods comes there tied for the lead and makes a 20-footer to go ahead.
Where is Seve Ballesteros when you need him, right?