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AUGUSTA, Ga. – My friend Hank Haney, who has never met a golf swing he couldn’t fix, is a gifted psychologist as well as a gifted golf instructor.
Just ask him.
He says that every time I pick against Tiger Woods, his pupil romps to victory.
OK, here we go: Tiger Woods will not win the 2008 Masters.
A long time ago, I made a steadfast prediction that Woods would win 10 Masters in his career. To help Woods achieve this — and to bolster Haney’s reputation — I must pick against Woods this year and in five additional years as well.
It’s called reverse psychology.
Woods, after all, has won only four Masters titles. This means six to go. Just not this year.
Too much speculation about the Grand Slam. It’s absurd. Too many assumptions about winning the Masters and heading to his home away from home, Torrey Pines, for the U.S. Open. It’s ridiculous.
Pleazzzz. We all play golf. We know how difficult it can be to win a tournament, any tournament.
Granted, as defending champion Zach Johnson said, Woods is a “freak” because of the superlative golf ability. He is better than everyone else. So what else is new?
Still, this doesn’t mean he can win every tournament, especially every major. You say Tiger will win the Grand Slam, I say he will experience the Grand Disappointment.
I have a feeling he will not win one major in 2008.
He will go majorless this year.
There were years when Jack Nicklaus did not win a single major – 15 of them, in fact, if you count every year in which Nicklaus played all four majors — and there will be years when Woods does not win a single major.
So far, figuring only those years in which he played all four majors, Woods has experienced only four of these no-major years. He has many to go, and I have a notion that 2008 will be one of them.
The Nicklaus yardstick is a good one, because these days Nicklaus and Woods generally are considered the top two golfers in history (with apologies to Bobby Jones).
So take a look at this statistic: Woods is 32. Nicklaus, in his late 20s and into his 30th year, played 12 consecutive majors without winning. As great as he was, Nicklaus didn’t win in between the 1967 U.S. Open and the 1970 British Open.
If Woods runs into a major-free streak, it should not surprise us. He is human, despite a lot of evidence to the contrary.
Furthermore, a hot putter is absolutely necessary to win a major. This is especially true in the Masters, where the greens are rolly-polly and fast.
What if Woods has a tug-of-war with the putting demons? What if he loses? It’s possible. These are the most unforgiving greens in the world.
Woods told a story about his first Masters round. He was playing with Jose Maria Olazabal. “I blew it (his drive) over the bunker and had a little 60-degree sand wedge and the pin was middle left. I hit not a very good shot, but it was pin high, no big deal. Next thing I know, I’m chipping for my next shot. My first putt at Augusta in competition, putted off the green.”
He laughed after he told that story, but it illustrates how diabolical these greens can be.
One more observation: Call it the happiness quotient. The happier a golfer’s life outside golf, the more difficult it can be to demand spectacular golf. Woods appears to be Mr. Content with his wife and baby and millions of dollars to go with millions of fans.
If he loses the Masters, so what? There’s always another major. There’s always his beautiful family back home.
To some degree, I believe this happened with Phil Mickelson and Annika Sorenstam. In case we forgot, there is more to life than golf.
Woods, of course, would have none of this talk. He has said the Grand Slam (winning all four majors in one year) is possible, and he didn’t back down from that statement Monday.
“I’ve won all four in a row (but not in the same year),” he said. “I think this is my 12th or 13th season out here (12th actually), and nine of those years I’ve won five or more tournaments. So I just have to win the right four. That’s what it boils down to.”
He’s dreaming. Granted, he’s a better dreamer than anybody else, but there will be no Grand Slam this year. My crystal ball says Woods will go Mastersless and majorless.
Next year? Who knows? He’ll probably win 23 tournaments.