TV, but Tiger is not anyone else. Tiger is the guy with 14 majors, who played Augusta National every year from 1995 until last year, who has finished in the top-5 here eleven times, and won it four. He’s the guy who made the cut as an amateur, and won the thing just two years later with a -18. He’s the guy who made them redesign the course, so he wouldn’t keep winning by consistently shooting rounds of 65 and 66 every time he showed up.
Of course, he is also the guy who has had far more withdrawals and missed cuts than decent performances over the past two years, actually threatening for the last time at the World Challenge in December of 2013. His detractors have long said that he is a front-runner. That he either wins outright, or often doesn’t contend, which makes him a risky play in fantasy. More recently, the naysayers will put forward the fact that he cannot stay healthy, and that even if he is healthy right now, he hasn’t won here since 2005.
And while we can’t predict health, we can look at the announcement he released to say he was playing: “I’ve worked a lot on my game and I look forward to competing.” You can’t work on your game without being healthy to some extent, right? And we can study the body language in the pictures we have from his two practice rounds, like this one from Monday, where he smiles about draining a birdie on #1. But perhaps more important, are the numbers I quoted earlier – “every year since 1995,” and “in the top-5 eleven times,” and so on. He doesn’t have to win to make a good fantasy option, and you can counter those who say he only wins or fades AND those who bring up the fact that he hasn’t won here since 2005 with a single string of numbers: 3, 2, 2, 6, 4, 4, 40, 4. Those are his finishes here SINCE 2005. That last 4th place finish was just in 2013. If health is truly not an issue, he can finish in the top-25 on course knowledge and experience alone.
What Vegas released immediately after Friday’s announcement probably takes the temperature of the average golf fan pretty well. Gone are the days of “Tiger vs. the field” odds, replaced instead with even odds that he makes the cut, and even odds that he manages to shoot a 73 or better on Thursday. Never mind winning vs. the field, the question on the table is whether he can crack the top-20. The trust is gone, just as the fear and awe of other players on the Tour started to fade a while back too.
But if Tiger is there coming down the stretch on Sunday, more TVs will be tuned to the Masters, more players will be sneaking a quick look at the leaderboard to see what he’s doing now, and you are going to be wondering why he’s not in your fantasy lineup. $9,400 might seem like a lot, especially when you can get a Lee Westwood or a Jim Furyk for closer to $8,000, but but $9,400 places him squarely between Patrick Reed and Brandt Snedeker. In other words, health is being factored in – because if he actually is healthy and proves it this weekend, Snedeker and Reed will not be the company he is keeping for quite some time.