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McIlroy will be happy to be lost in the Woods

By: Golf Shake | Sun 05 Apr 2015

Post by Sports Journalist Derek Clements

RORY McILROY will, no doubt, have breathed a huge sigh of relief at the news that Tiger Woods is to compete in The Masters after all as it will take a little of the heat off the Northern Irishman as he bids to complete his career grand slam.

Rory McIlroy

Woods hasn't a prayer of contending at Augusta - or at least he wouldn't do if he were an ordinary mortal. But you can be sure that he will provide the sort of distraction that McIlroy both needs and will welcome. In fact, Woods' record at Augusta is remarkable. He hasn't won since 2005, which was the year he holed that chip at the 16th, when his Nike golf ball teetered on the brink of the hole long enough for the entire world to note the company's swoosh logo, before falling into the cup.

He didn't play last year because of injury, but on the nine occasions he has played since winning in 2005, Woods has only once finished worse than sixth - in 2012 when he was tied 40th. In 2013 he was given no chance but finished tied fourth despite a double penalty - the first after his golf ball hit the flag and ended in Rae's Creek, the second when he admitted dropping the ball in the wrong place. Had it not been for that, there is every chance he would have won.

This time is different. He shot an 82 in the Phoenix Open (his worst round as a pro) and then walked off the course claiming a back injury at the Farmers Insurance Open. During those tournaments he fluffed a series of pitches, chips and even bunker shots. This, remember, from the man with the finest short game of his generation. His putting stroke, once so reliable, has shown signs of fallibility for three years, but when a top pro loses the ability to pitch the ball close then he is in serious trouble, especially on a course such as Augusta.

But he has announced that he will be playing. "I'm playing in The Masters. It's obviously very important to me, and I want to be there," Woods said. "I've worked a lot on my game, and I'm looking forward to competing. I'm excited to get to Augusta, and I appreciate everyone's support."

After withdrawing from the Farmers Insurance Open Open, he had said: "Right now, I need a lot of work on my game, and to still spend time with the people that are important to me. My play, and scores, are not acceptable for tournament golf. Like I've said, I enter a tournament to compete at the highest level, and when I think I'm ready, I'll be back."

The four-time Masters winner followed that with another statement on March 13, ahead of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Although he didn't make any promises one way or the other, Woods stated his desire to vie for a fifth green jacket: "I've put in a lot of time and work on my game and I'm making strides, but like I've said, I won't return to the PGA Tour until my game is tournament ready and I can compete at the highest level. I hope to be ready for The Masters, and I will continue to work hard preparing for Augusta.

Notah Begay, a close friend of the 14-time major winner, said the time away was doing wonders for Tiger's game. "I think his golf game as a whole is in a great place," Begay said. "I think it was good for him to stay a step back, to reassess a variety of different things and do things on his timeline."

Woods played a practice round and is reported to have shot a two-over-par 74 and struggled around the greens. He can be sure that they will be twice as fast when the tournament begins. And the first time he faces a tricky pitch for real, we will soon find out if he has rid himself of the chipping yips.

Ten years ago Chris DiMarco was on the receiving end of that amazing chip at the 16th and he says: "This is a make?and?break week for him. I thought when I played with him he had the greatest mind ever and he was the strongest mind I've ever seen, but it's getting mental.

"If it doesn't get fixed, I don't know if he can overcome it."

When Woods plays his usual mantra is to tell the world he's only there to win, but surely even he will accept that making the cut this time will be an achievement.

Photo Credit - TourProGolfClubs

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Tags: tiger woods rory mcilroy Masters

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