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SI Golf+ convened a panel of experts—senior writers Michael Bamberger, Alan Shipnuck and Gary Van Sickle; special contributor John Garrity; and a Tour player who took part upon the condition of anonymity—to tackle these and other questions
TIGER WOODS HAS ALREADY PILED UP THREE WINS, AND HE LOOKS MASTERS-READY. SURPRISED?
Shipnuck: His wedge play is so much better; he's controlling the ball better. Clearly, he's back to being a dominant golfer. The next step is to win a major.
Bamberger: I don't think he'll ever putt in majors the way he used to. No one ever putted like he did. He's coming off good weeks on the greens at Doral and Bay Hill after getting that tip from Steve Stricker, but you can't compare those to the slopes at Augusta.
Garrity: Tiger had a career-low number of putts at Doral, and he was holing 15-footers like they were tap-ins at Bay Hill. I'd check that putting tip he got from Stricker for PEDs.
Van Sickle: I agree, John. Tiger has convinced me. He looks like he's putting great, and historically he wins whenever he putts great.
Anonymous Pro: You can't say Tiger is back, just like you can't say he was really ever gone. But you can say this: The Masters is suddenly much more exciting now that he's won a couple of times. If he putts well at Augusta, I'm not sure it even matters how well he hits it.
Garrity: I was among the incorrigible skeptics until Bay Hill. Tiger has his tempo back, and if you ignore his interminable practice swings, he seems to be thinking less about technique. And he hit controlled draws at Bay Hill, so he won't have to play that low fade when it's not the shot, as he had been doing of late. I felt like I was watching vintage Tiger, the guy who won to the point of monotony a decade ago.
Shipnuck: This is a massively important Masters for Tiger. He's had excuses two or three years running—swing changes, scandal, too much time on his long game and neglecting his short game. His personal life is settled; he's at the top of his game. If he's going to be Tiger Woods, he needs to win this Masters.