Tiger Woods is the favourite to win the Masters.
Vegas Insider has him at 3/1. For context, Rory McIlroy has the next best odds at 8/1.
Woods is the overwhelming favourite because he’s won three tournaments this year thanks to a revitalized short game. His putting is excellent, and his wedges have improved.
We’ve spent all week trying to come up with clever reasons Woods will not win the Masters. Every time we think we’ve found one, it falls apart upon close inspection.
There is only one legitimate reason Tiger Woods will lose the Masters this year, and boy is it boring and cliched.
That reason: Just because.
File this one under “Duh,” but it can’t be overstated: It’s really hard to win a golf tournament.
Tiger isn’t just playing against 93 of the world’s best players, he’s also playing against a challenging golf course, and Mother Nature, which can alter everything with gusting winds or downpours. (The forecast calls for wind in the afternoon on Thursday, and rain in the morning on Friday, which actually favours Woods, since he’s out early on Thursday, out late on Friday.)
He’s also playing against himself. Woods’ putter could go cold. He could seize up under the pressure of wanting to win his 15th major championship. He could have a bad night’s rest. There are any number of tiny things that can go wrong.
But, entering this year’s Masters, Woods looks primed to win.
He’s 1st on the tour in strokes gained putting, a statistic that measures putting success. Last year he was 36th. This year, he’s 13th in the tour from 100-125 yards and in. Last year he was 72nd.
With his driver, he has successfully eliminated one side of the course, which pro golfers are always trying to do. He’s 9th in left rough tendency coming in, last year he was 170th.
This means he has more control over his shot and knows where it’s going.
Speaking of his driver, we had a theory that his fade would be problematic at Augusta. When Woods hits his driver he shapes the ball from left to right. Early in his career, when Tiger hit the fairway, it was with a draw, which means the ball went from right to the left.
We were worried that a fade was going put Woods out of position.
The 2nd and 13th holes at Augusta National are par-5s that dog to the left. With Woods hitting a fade, his shot will drift to the right, making it harder to attack the green.
The par-5s are important. Woods himself said, “You have to play them at least half under par for the week. I mean, you just have to take care of those par-5s, because there are so many pin locations on the par-4s and the par-3s, that it just gets very difficult to make easy birdies.”
An illustrator named Chris O’Reilly drew up changes to Augusta National through the years for Golf Digest a few years back. He’s given us permission to re-run some the illustrations here. We’re going to use them to show you how it could impact Woods’ chances of winning.
Here’s the 2nd hole, a par-5. As you can see, through the years trees have been grown along the right edge making shots that slide out right, more problematic. The green has also been narrowed, making approaches more difficult.
Here you can see how a faded shot, in red, could hurt more than a draw, in blue.
And here’s the famous 13th hole, the final part of “Amen Corner”. It’s a dog leg left. As you can see, through the years, the fairway has narrowed and trees have been grown on the right side. Also, take a look at the tee box in the back, and how it’s been pushed further and further back. If you’re hitting a fade, then the ball is at risk of swinging into those trees.
Here’s another crude illustration of what we’re talking about. The tee box is further back, so his faded shot could end up further from the hole and out to the right. The red is the fade, the blue is a draw.
Anyway, after cooking up this theory, we dug into the data on Tiger’s driving habits coming into the Masters. We got ShotLink data on Woods driving tendencies coming into the Masters going back to 2003.
When Woods won in 2005, his driving misses were about the same as they are coming into this year’s tournament. If anything, he’s a little better this year with his left side misses.
So, it doesn’t look like his shot shape is that big a problem.
And here’s a look at the previous champions misses coming into the event. As you can see, none of these players have any discernible pattern that differentiates them from Woods’ driving. We asked for Masters driving data, but ShotLink doesn’t get access to Augusta National to track the data.
So, in summary, we can’t think up a quantifiable reason for Woods to lose.
If he’s going to lose it’s going to be for the simple, boring reason that golf is hard, and the difference between winning and losing can be something as stupid as the way the wind is blowing.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.