In Depth

Tiger Woods roars back - can he win the Masters?

The ‘Tiger effect’ is now in full flow and the golf world is seeing the benefits

Tiger Woods may have missed out on victory at the Valspar Championship last weekend, but his return to form proves there’s one big winner from his exploits in Florida: the game of golf and the economy it supports.

England’s Paul Casey won the PGA Tour event by one shot, with Woods finishing in a tie for second place with his fellow American Patrick Reed.

Needing a birdie on the final hole to force a play-off, Woods could only par the 18th on the Copperhead Course in Palm Harbor as he finished on nine-under.

The finish may been disappointing for the former world No. 1, who was looking for his first win since the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but his involvement in the final hole drama brought huge excitement to golf and the sport’s fans.

A bolt of electricity 

The BBC’s Iain Carter says that Woods’s resurgence after years of injuries and personal issues has sent a “bolt of electricity through golf”. 

Carter writes: “Rarely do UK headlines go to a player finishing second behind a British champion on the PGA Tour, but that was an inevitability in the wake of Tiger Woods finishing runner-up to Paul Casey. Take nothing away from Casey’s brilliant victory, but the fact Woods was in contention at Innisbrook over the weekend generated huge sporting attention around the world.”

A total of 150,000 tickets were sold on the course compared to 112,000 last year, ESPN reports, while off it Sporting News says that Woods’s involvement in the final round at the Valspar Championship drew the “biggest [non-major] PGA TV ratings in five years”.

The tournament’s US broadcasters NBC Sports revealed that its third round coverage had a 181% increase in viewers, the BBC reports. And according to a Golf Channel release, published by USA Today, Sunday’s final round was the highest non-major golf broadcast since the 2013 Players Championship – a tournament won by Woods. 

While the TV audience numbers were impressive, there was also a huge spike online. ESPN reports that Saturday’s third round saw 5.5 million minutes of action streamed on the Golf Channel and NBC Sports digital networks. This was a 600% increase when compared to the Saturday of the same event last year.

The Tiger effect

The “Tiger Woods effect” not only kept golf fans glued to their TV screens but also gave an immediate boost to other industries.

Reddit user Alcaonline, a bartender at a golf course, wrote: “Sundays are usually an OK day. But today was different. I was so slammed packed with people watching Tiger play it was insane. 

“I know it seems minimal but the economic trickle down effect this guy has when it comes to the golf world is hard to explain. I made at least 3X the amount of money I usually make on Sundays just because Tiger was in contention. He brings so much to the game it’s amazing.”

Woods was delighted with his “amazing week” and admitted that he “missed” the drama of the final round back nine. Writing on Twitter he said: “Wow, what an amazing week...people, atmosphere, adrenaline, back nine on Sunday, man I’ve missed this. Getting better. Thank you for all the support.”

One of the highlights of his week was a 44-foot putt on the 17th on Sunday. Golf.com called it “vintage” Woods magic as he “drained” the massive putt while Golf Digest described it as a “holy $#&%!” moment.

Golfing history

The moment gave the 42-year-old a glimpse of an 80th PGA Tour victory, but it was not to be. Woods continues his comeback at this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational and Sky Sports says he will be “looking to create more golfing history” at Bay Hill. 

He has won the Arnold Palmer Invitational eight times and will be going for an unprecedented ninth victory.

While Woodss focus will now be on Bay Hill, many golf fans will be looking ahead to the first major of the season. The Masters takes place from 5-8 April at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia and many are talking him up as a contender for the Green Jacket.

Could Woods do the unthinkable and win a fifth Masters title? Back in January, the BBC’s Iain Carter predicted on Radio 5 live that Woods could be victorious at Augusta. 

Carter admits that the prediction was a “mischievous comment aimed at stimulating a radio discussion”, but now “few are laughing at the notion of him contending for a fifth Masters Green Jacket”.

In its “Tiger Confidential” editorial, Golf Digest says the sport is “intrigued” by the prospect of Woods playing at Augusta for the first time in three years.

Speaking to dozens of players – including 11 major champions and a host of caddies, teachers and broadcasters – the publication asks “can he win” the Masters?

The definitive answer, Golf Digest says, wont be known before 5 April when players gather on a “field of green in Georgia”.

The Masters betting odds

According to many of the bookmakers, Dustin Johnson is favourite to win the Masters next month. Tiger Woods is also among the favourites. Here are the latest best prices for the Masters, as of 13 March:

Oddschecker

  • Dustin Johnson: 17/2 
  • Tiger Woods: 12/1 
  • Justin Thomas: 12/1 
  • Jordan Spieth: 12/1 
  • Rory McIlroy: 16/1 
  • Jason Day: 20/1

Coral

  • Dustin Johnson: 15/2 
  • Justin Thomas: 10/1 
  • Jordan Spieth: 11/1 
  • Tiger Woods: 11/1 
  • Rory McIlroy: 14/1 
  • Jason Day: 24/1

Paddy Power

  • Dustin Johnson: 15/2 
  • Justin Thomas: 10/1 
  • Tiger Woods: 10/1 
  • Jordan Spieth: 10/1 
  • Jason Day: 14/1 
  • Justin Rose: 16/1

William Hill

  • Dustin Johnson: 8/1 
  • Jordan Spieth: 10/1 
  • Justin Thomas: 10/1 
  • Tiger Woods: 10/1 
  • Rory McIlroy: 14/1 
  • Jason Day: 16/1

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