PGA Tour Confidential: Tiger's march to Augusta, relationship with Lindsey Vonn

Tiger Woods
Fred Vuich / Sports Illustrated
Tiger Woods has improved his play on the greens this season, including at Bay Hill.

Every Sunday night, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group conducts an e-mail roundtable. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.

TIGER IN TOP FORM
Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: Tiger Woods is in control at the rain-delayed Arnold Palmer Invitational. What's impressed you most about Woods's play this season as he heads into the Masters?

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I am most impressed by Tiger's happiness. I am happy for him.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Two key things for Tiger are that his wedge game is back -- he's been deadly with those 60-, 70-, 90-yard wedge shots -- and his putting. Whether you thank or blame Steve Stricker, Tiger is rolling his putts great. Mix great putting in with excellent iron play and Tiger is back to being in the mix every time he tees it up. Yeah, uh-oh!

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Well, he is obviously making putts, but what has impressed me most is his iron play. And he seems to be putting a lot of 2s on the scorecard. That is never a bad thing.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: He seems more at ease out there -- not so much stress about the insult of the rare bad shot. He's doing what he's done throughout his career, playing well on the courses he likes the most.

Eamon Lynch, managing editor, Golf.com His putting. When he's confident on the greens he is very tough to beat.

Stephanie Wei, WeiUnderPar.com: I really like Tiger's demeanor and quiet confidence. It's different than what we've seen in the last few years. He doesn't have that same invincible aura as he did pre-scandal, but it's pretty darn close. When he has the lead going into the last round, there's that sense he's not going to royally mess up, so he'll be tough to beat.

Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: We all talk about his putting and short game, which are looking much better, but he's really bombing it again too. Woods plays a power game and during his injuries and swing changes, he wasn't getting his usual advantage with the driver. In 2011, he was 71st on Tour in driving distance at 294 yards. This year, he's 11th at 300 yards.

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Wish I had something new to say because I feel like I've said this a bunch already: putter. That was the biggest thing missing.

Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: He's all but eliminated his misses to the left off the tee. Last year, he fought a hook when under pressure, especially during those disappointing weekends at the majors. This year when he's wild, it's almost always a miss to the right, and he's still able to play through it.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: For all the obsessing about Tiger's long-game, what I like most about his game this year is that he's relearned the art of scoring. His wedge game from 100 yards has been terrific, he's more efficient getting up and down and he's putted at times like the young Crenshaw. All of that takes tons of pressure off his ballstriking, which, by the way, has been more consistent, too.

IS TIGER MAJOR-READY?
Reiterman: Last year, Tiger was in the mix at the majors, but he faded over the weekend. This year he looks to have everything in order as we head to Augusta. Has your opinion changed on how many majors Tiger will win this year?

Bamberger: Tiger's issues in last year's majors remain. He wants it too much.

Godich: I seem to recall that Tiger had things pretty much in order last year as well. That said, I maintain that his stellar play in 2013 means nothing until he takes that same game with him to a major -- and wins. If he doesn't deliver, I say it's a sign that he is no longer immune to the pressure.

Ritter: I wrote earlier that I wouldn't pick Tiger to win a major until I see his game actually hold up under the pressure of a major weekend. It's tempting to revise this, since he's clearly improved several phases of his game this season, but for now I will stubbornly, and perhaps stupidly, maintain my stance that Tiger gets shut out in the majors this season. I'm fully aware that I might end up eating a giant plate of crow. Is it OK if I deep-fry it first? I'm just guessing it would taste better deep-fried.

Lynch: He doesn't have everything in order. Check his driving stats this week: he is hardly distinguishing himself in that category. A hot putter can disguise that at a run-of-the-mill Tour venue like Bay Hill or Doral, but a major tournament set-up is more likely to attach a cost to errant driving. I still say he grabs one this year.

Gorant: Well, Ryan, not to toot the ol' horn, but I believe it's you and me who have never wavered on the "Tiger will break the record" position. So I don't have a projection for how many he'll win this year in particular, but I'm once again repeating my belief that he will break Jack's record.

Shipnuck: This Masters sets up as one of the most important tournaments of Tiger's career. He's healthy, his game is in great shape, he's in love ... basically, he's out of the excuses that have been trotted out in his post-scandal major championship drought. If he wins the Masters he's back to being Tiger Woods, more or less. If he fails to perform, you have to say the mental scar tissue is so great he'll be a question mark at every major going forward.

Morfit: Yes, my opinion has changed, largely because he just seems happier with his life whether he does or he doesn't. That takes a lot of the pressure off. I'll say he wins a major. I'll say he wins the U.S. Open at Merion by playing small ball the way he did to win the Open at Hoylake.

Walker: Tiger has dismissed the idea that he needed to learn how to win again, but that's what it's looked like so far. He was in the mix last year, and I think he breaks through at a major this year, though my guess is Merion, not Augusta.

Wei: Yes. How can you not be high on Tiger right now? He's not even hitting the ball that well this week and he's dominating.

Go to Page 2

Forecast
PGA Tour News
Trips
Travel & Courses
Lessons
Tips & Videos
The Shop
Equipment News & Reviews