WE CONVENED A PANEL OF SI GOLF EXPERTS—SENIOR WRITERS MICHAEL BAMBERGER, DAMON HACK, ALAN SHIPNUCK AND GARY VAN SICKLE AS WELL AS SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR JOHN GARRITY—AND A PGA TOUR PRO (WHO PARTICIPATED ON THE CONDITION OF ANONYMITY) TO TAKE UP THESE AND OTHER QUESTIONS
Van Sickle: For the second year in a row, the biggest question mark in Augusta is Tiger Woods. What should we expect from him?
Shipnuck: Tiger is a long shot, at best. In the past, when he struggled with his long game, he could still score better than anyone. Now he's missing five-footers, his chipping is shaky and at Bay Hill he was dumping it in the water from the middle of the fairway. You can't fake it at Augusta National.
Bamberger: I respectfully disagree. He has to be a better golfer now than a year ago, when he finished fourth with a Band-Aid swing. Knowing the course as well as he does, he can contend even playing lousy golf—lousy by his standards.
Shipnuck: The swing was a Band-Aid, but at least he knew it; he had been using the same one for five years. If you believe what he says, he's totally changed his chipping and pitching motions too.
Bamberger: Hold it, Alan. Did you really say, "If you believe what he says?"
Hack: I think the Masters is the only major Tiger can win right now. I like what Michael said. He was fourth last year with a two-way miss and coming off the devastation of his scandal. He can simply show up and finish fifth. So if the other guys get sweaty palms, he can win.
Van Sickle: I don't want to sound flippant, but I'm surprised Woods isn't a little further along with Sean Foley after all these months.
Anonymous Pro: I definitely thought he'd be further along. My biggest concern is that he can't drive it in a 10-acre field. I watched the Tavistock Cup and he was horrendous. With the driver, the club looks so flat and behind him that it appears to be coming in from his right hip pocket. I don't see how he can recover from that.