AUGUSTA, Ga. – If Tiger Woods could control the weather at Augusta National, he’d order warm temperatures, slight breezes and dry conditions.
In essence, the opposite of the last two years, when first Zach Johnson and then Trevor Immelman won the big event ahead of Woods, who finished second, unable to charge to victory like Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus of yesteryear.
“The course is just so much longer and so much more difficult,” said Woods, a four-time Masters champion, leading a chorus of critics. “You don’t have the same amount of birdie opportunities you used to have.”
Woods, however, won’t totally rule out a charge on Sunday: If conditions are right, “I’m sure you can probably shoot one of those good numbers.” He might be in luck: Forecasters are calling for much sun, temperatures in the 70s and 80s and light winds.
Greg Norman, the victim of a Nicklaus charge on the back nine in 1986, returns to The Masters for the first time since 2002. He says fireworks on Sunday – from Woods or any other player who is a long driver and deft putter – would be no surprise.
“Great charges come when you can go into the 13th hole or 15th hole with a 6-iron and attack the pin,” he said. “You can’t attack the pins with a 2-iron.”
Phil Mickelson said some pins are difficult to attack but “It’s going to be warm, and the ball is going to be traveling farther. We’re going to be hitting shorter irons into the greens and playing the course aggressively.”
Padraig Harrington could join Woods and Ben Hogan as the only players to win three different majors in a row. Harrington won the British Open and the PGA Championship last year after Woods had knee surgery.
Woods tees off Thursday at 10:52 a.m. Tucson time, but the last threesome at 11:03 a.m. could be the most entertaining, with young guns Anthony Kim, Rory McIlroy and Ryo Ishikawa playing together.
MASTERS ON TV
Thursday-Friday (ESPN): 1-4:30 p.m., 5-8 p.m.
Saturday (CBS): 12:30-4 p.m.
Sunday (CBS): 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Go to www.tucsoncitizen.com for updates.