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Saturday, March 8, 2014
Updated: March 12, 6:45 PM ET
Should Tiger rest up before return?

ESPN.com

With probably the most questioned back injury in golf history, Tiger Woods again leaves a PGA Tour event answering more questions about his health than his golf game.

So what's in store for the world No. 1 golfer as he prepares for the Masters? And what are we to make of WGC-Cadillac Championship winner Patrick Reed's comments about being a top-five player in the world?

Our scribes dive into those topics and more in the latest edition of Four-Ball.

1. Should Tiger Woods play next week at Bay Hill or rest his back prior to the Masters?

Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Tiger needs a week with Patrick Reed eating ice cream and watching Netflix. If the back isn't 100 percent Monday of Bay Hill, he has to shut it down that week as well. He can make some covert trips to Augusta and privately get his reps in  and be ready for four rounds in April.

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Tiger should not play competitive golf again until the Masters in mid-April. All he can do is exacerbate a nagging injury by playing in another so-called Masters tune-up like Bay Hill. If his game is rusty headed into Augusta, at least the bad back will be rested.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: He needs to play at Bay Hill. It is a course he knows well, meaning it doesn't require a great deal of practice. And that then gives him two full weeks off prior to the Masters. Woods appears to be in a state where he needs several days off to recover, and then has to be careful about practice going into tournaments.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Right now, he shouldn't do anything but get that back "calmed down" as he was saying Sunday. I'm sure he wants to play Bay Hill, but Mr. Palmer will understand if he skips the event to make sure his back is 100 percent going into the Masters. That being said, if he passes on Arnie's place, that would put him without hitting a competitive shot for a month prior to Augusta. Adding Houston to his schedule the week before might be a good idea, albeit a far-fetched one.

2. What positives does Tiger take from his T-25 finish at Doral?

Collins: The putter. With 26 putts on the toughest day, followed by 25 putts, that's when he made a mini charge. Two rounds of 30 putts is marginal but one was stop and go (Thursday-Friday) and one was Sunday when the back just wasn't going to be on your side.

Evans: Tiger stuck it out and finished 72 holes through a bad back. Beyond that, it's hard to find any positives to a week that he finished with a 78 after starting the final round 3 shots off the lead and in the second-to-last group.

Harig: The 66 on Saturday was the kind of round he could have built upon had Sunday's back relapse not occurred. He hit the ball beautifully, putted well. And Friday's gut-check in brutal conditions was also impressive. There was a lot of good golf, but once again, not a complete tournament.

Maguire: Well, he did have his best finish of 2014. Seriously, though, his 66 in the third round showed he can still take it low like he did on Saturday at the Honda Classic. The biggest question mark will be, can he manage that balky back and will it flare up at an inopportune moment, like the back nine at Augusta on Sunday?

3. Doral winner Patrick Reed, 23, said he feels he's a top-five player in the world. Agree or disagree?

Collins: What did Ric Flair always say? "To be the man you gotta beat the man (WOO)!!" Well, did he not just beat the best? Are there five guys who've had a better seven-month stretch? I say no. Now if he was playing against only the top 10 guys every week, could he consistently beat five of them? Glad that isn't the case, but I'll say he might be closer than people think.

Evans: Disagree. However, most rankings are problematic. Is Tiger Woods the No. 1 player in the world right now? Yes, according to the Official World Golf Rankings, but he hasn't played like it in many months. Reed's claim is as subjective as the belief held by many that Tiger is the best player to ever play the game. Reed's problem is that he dared to claim that lofty place for himself without letting someone else put him there first.

Harig: It depends on the definition. Right now, yes. Three victories in 14 events is pretty stout, matched only by Jimmy Walker. Both have been surprises in the early part of the season. And he might well get to top five in the world based on the rankings sooner than anyone ever imagined.

Maguire: Not yet, but he's very close. It's hard to argue with a kid who has three wins since August. Is he cocky or confident? That's a fine line, especially when you're so much younger than everyone else. When you back up the talk with victories, though, it's perceived more as confidence.

4. What grade would you give the newly redesigned Doral?

Collins: C. Tweaks need to be made. The good news is they got wind from almost every direction so Gil Hanse now knows what worked and what didn't. The bad news is, when is he going to have time to come make the changes? I'm thinking he's got a bunch to do in Brazil for a while. Just saying.

Evans: The new Doral is a demanding but fair setup that retained the best virtues of the old layout. It's an A-minus.

Harig: B-minus. The course is much better than before, a sterner test than it has been in years. But it's hard around the edges. A few greens -- the third and 15th come to mind -- likely need to be softened. And the course will need to mature, which is expected before the players come back next year.

Maguire: I'd give it a B. Toss out Friday's play due to brutal winds, and overall, the course seemed hard but fair, which is what most players appreciate. Sure, Doral could use a few more seasons of letting the grass grow in a bit, but considering what they did in the past 12 months, Gil Hanse's work at the direction of Donald Trump is nothing short of a miracle.