Tiger And Spieth Prepping For 2018 Masters

Tiger And Spieth Prepping For 2018 Masters

Increased game prep makes it look increasingly likely that Tiger Woods will break a three-year-long no-show spell with an appearance at the 2018 Masters Tournament come April, but the rest of the probably front-runners aren’t exactly resting up either.

Like Woods, who only just returned to the PGA Tour this year after undergoing spinal fusion surgery in April of 2017, other elite players like Jordan Spieth - the current No. 4 man on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) leaderboard – have got a lot to prove at Augusta as well. The tale of these two golfers going into the 2018 edition of the Masters in particular is, in a way, a microcosm representative of the entire upper tier of professional golf today. Basically, players thought to be write-ins or sure thing bets, or whatever you want to call them, are really going to have to play up at Augusta National if they want to secure a green jacket. The way that many of these big names are preparing shows that nobody is taking the Masters –or the competition they are likely to meet there - for granted.

To say that Woods, 42, the pro golfer who pretty much defined the sport in the 1990s, took a turn for the worse professionally and personally in the last 10 or so years is a bit of an understatement. Health concerns and personal woes have kept him out of the upper reaches of the game, but he looks to be making yet another (don’t call it a) comeback moment of late. In fact, he performed better than admirably at the Valspar Championship, his debut for this season on the PGA Tour, shooting just three strokes behind the club leader Corey Conners in the first round of play. That put him ahead of four-time Majors winner Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson, of Sweden, both of whom are expected to appear in the Masters in a few weeks’ time.

Woods is also doing better than Spieth, 24, who has been off to a rough start this season, and had an even worse first-round result at the Valspar Championship. He looked to be doing well with a birdie on the first hole but then the three-times Majors champ went on a lamentable seven-hole run from the third through the 10th in which he slipped well behind Woods – the current OWGR No. 388, who finds himself on an upswing. For his part, Woods (who finds himself grouped with Spieth at the Valspar), trekked admirably through to the 16th hole where he nevertheless struggled to make the par four cutoff, only to birdie and shoot part on the second to last and final holes, respectively, for a respectable close to the first day.

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Results like this are a source of encouragement for Woods, while Spieth’s disappointing turns in the early stages of the 2017-2018 season on the PGA Tour having him looking at the Masters as the “start” of his campaign for the year. Both men have a lot to prove by a good showing at Augusta, and they have accordingly been prepping for the biggest – and richest – tournament in professional golf like never before. Woods especially is not known for making pre-Masters trips to Georgia (and by his four wins at the tourney it doesn’t look like that lack of practice there hurt him much. However, it is worth considering that Woods’ last victory at the annual event came more than a decade ago, way back in 2005 in fact, whereas the much younger Spieth won his first and only Masters just two years ago and is primed to become the future face of the sport for years to come.

That combination of factors is probably weighing heavily on the minds of the bookies and oddsmakers at legal offshore sports betting sites like Bovada, which list Vegas odds on the PGA Tour (particularly the four Major tournaments) throughout the year. Woods is sitting not too far off the top of the betting boards at the Latvia-based site’s golf section, boasting +1200 moneyline odds to win the 2018 Masters and +400 to win the Valspar as that event’s favorite. Spieth is tied for first on the boards at Bovada, with moneyline odds of +750 to win in Augusta, but his direct competitor, fellow American Dustin Johnson, is the No. 1 golfer in the world at the moment and is enjoying a more solid ’17-’18 up to this point.

For Woods and Spieth, the prep work they’re putting in at Augusta National is as crucial as it uncharacteristic. Woods even decided to compete in the Valspar Championship just to get in more competitive reps in advance of the Masters, and later told reporters after the first round that he’s going to be heading to Augusta for even more intensive work on the infamously tough greens and distant fairways of the north Georgia course. Provided he doesn’t suffer any more health issues, Woods can expect to go into the Masters with around 14 or so rounds of tough golf under his belt.

Whether or not that will help against Spieth, a true young gun in every sense of the word, is anybody’s guess, but the Masters in particular is played on a course with a longstanding and much-respected layout that seldom sees too much revision from the course planners. That means veteran players like Woods have a better shot than they otherwise might against the comparative youngsters they find themselves playing against these days. Tiger’s legions of fans around the world certainly seem to help it will, which is driving a lot of renewed interest in tuning in the for the 2018 Masters, not to mention the effect the attention its having in amping up the betting boards online at USA online sportsbooks.

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