How much rust will Tiger have to shed to compete at the Masters?

Isn’t it strange to think that Tiger, the defending Masters Champion, goes into this year’s event having played in only two events in this short, seven event, 2021 season? And clearly his performance in those two events was not at all the Tiger we know and adore:

  • US Open – Missed CUT
  • ZO ZO Championship – Tied 72nd in a limited, 76-player field.

Given this brief but disappointing record, what can we expect from the defending Masters Champ? Let’s compare Tiger’s ZO ZO performance to the TOP-3 finishers – all three of whom will be playing against him in Augusta.

  1. Patrick Cantlay – Won the ZO ZO by one stroke over:
  2. Justin Thomas – Tied for 2nd
  3. Jon Rahm – Tied for 2nd

One could argue that Tiger had nearly as much of a home course advantage at Sherwood CC as he does at the Masters. He has played in 12 events at Sherwood vs. approximately 25 Masters. Coincidentally, Tiger has won FIVE times at both. By comparison, Messers Thomas and Rahm are fledglings on the Sherwood links.

[Since I am talking about RUST, I decided that it was only fair to omit Tiger’s first round 76 from my analysis as it was clearly part of shaking off a good part of his rust.]

As you can see from the Strokes Gained recap below, Tiger gave up 3.8 strokes per round to the TOP-3 (2.5 Tee to Green and 1.3 Putting). His biggest challenge will be in his Tee to Green game – predominantly Driving and Approach accuracy. While the driving may be more forgiving at Augusta, approach accuracy is very demanding. Tiger’s approach accuracy has long been one of his strengths.

Clearly Tiger has a steep hill to climb in Augusta but let’s bear a few factors in mind:

  1. Augusta really is his HOME field. The course, and his extraordinary experience on it, have to provide a tremendous advantage.
  2. Who thought that he could win in 2019?
  3. IT’s TIGER!

I, for one, will be rooting for him like never before.

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