A Tiger win more about par-3s, par-4s
In his first official PGA Tour win in 30 months at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Tiger Woods was a tournament-best 12-under par on the par-5s. Conventional wisdom says that Tiger will have to have a similar performance this week on Augusta National's par-5s if he wants to win his fifth green jacket and first since 2005.
Year after year, Augusta National's four par 5s -- Nos. 2, 8, 13, 15 -- are the easiest holes on the golf course. If you were to go solely by par-5 scoring, Webb Simpson, who led the PGA Tour in that category last year with a 4.48 average, would be the favorite to win the Masters in his first trip to the tournament.
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There is no doubt that come Sunday night the winner will make the bulk of his birdies on the par-5s. Woods is 125-under par on the par-5s in his career in 15 professional trips to Augusta. Last year for the week, Charl Schwartzel was 9-under par on the par-5s, 4-under on the par-4s and 1-under on the par-3s.
But in Tiger's four Masters wins, he set himself apart from the field by his scoring on the other 14 holes. He has shot 23-under par on the par-4s in his wins, and 32-over in all his other finishes. In his third-round 74 that put him seven shots back of the leader going into last year's final round, Tiger had four bogeys on the par-4s.
In 2010, when he finished in a tie for fourth (as he did last year), he bogeyed three of the first six holes before going 4-under par over his last three holes on the front side. For the day, he went 4-under on the par-5s, but was 1 over on par-4s.
That year he had bogeys on two of the toughest par-4s on the golf course: the first and 10th holes. The back nine has a few eagle and birdie chances, but when Tiger doesn't win, he has trouble getting through the first three holes: He is 24-over par for his career on those holes.
The Par 3s
Last year on Sunday, Tiger had a rally-killing bogey on the 155-yard, par-3 12th after shooting a front-nine 31. Woods had started his round with two birdies before a bogey at the par-3 fourth hole on a day when he had no margin for error. The par-3, 240-yard fourth hole has always given Tiger fits. He is 13-over on the hole since 1997 and hasn't made a birdie on the downhill hole since 2004, his longest birdie drought on any hole on the golf course.
Those two bogeys last year on par-3s represent a truth of his game when he doesn't win at the Masters. Tiger has scored 1-over par or worse on 20 percent of par-3s when he doesn't win, compared to just under 11 percent in wins.
No. 12 is one of five holes on the course that Tiger has played 7-over par or worse in his pro career. It's not a coincidence that 2005 was also the last time he had a birdie on the hole and that '05 was also the year that Tiger had a miraculous chip-in off the green for birdie at the par-3 16th hole that is one of the most memorable shots in Masters history.
Tiger hasn't finished outside the top 10 at the Masters since 2004. Over that stretch, he has had five top-5s. Along with Phil Mickelson, Tiger has been one of the two most consistent performers at the tournament in the past 16 years.
Yet Tiger hasn't won more, if four isn't enough, because he's struggled on some of the par-3s and par-4s at critical moments during the week. Sure, he'll make his share of eagles and birdies at the par-5s, but he should be particularly careful with his play at a few key par-4s (Nos. 1, 10,11 and 14) and the par-3s (Nos. 4 and 12).
Those holes could make the difference between his winning a fifth green jacket or getting his seventh top-10 since his 2005 win. The latter would be no small feat, but for Tiger it would be a major disappointment.
Farrell Evans covers golf for ESPN and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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2012 champion: Bubba Watson
Course: Augusta National Golf Club
Where: Augusta, Ga.
Yardage, par: 7,435 yards, par-72
Past champions: Complete list