Tiger at top of Masters favorites list?

And what part of Woods' game needs some work before year's first major?

Updated: March 26, 2012, 12:17 PM ET
ESPN.com

PGA Tour win No. 72 might be one of the sweetest for Tiger Woods in his career. After going 30 months without a PGA Tour win and 28 months without any official victory, the former world No. 1 jumped back into the top 10 in the world rankings.

The next time we'll see Woods on a golf course will be at the Masters. So what can we expect from him in the year's first major? Our experts analyze all that and more in our latest edition of Monday Four-Ball.


1. Where does Tiger rank among the favorites heading into Augusta?


Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Is there anyone other than Tiger who can be favored? How many green jackets does Luke Donald have? Didn't Rory McIlroy say at Honda that he wished it weren't Tiger shooting 62 on Sunday? And defending champ Charl Schwartzel's family is betting Tiger in Vegas. OK, I made that last thing up, but it wouldn't surprise me.

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Tiger is solidly behind Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Win or lose Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, he was going to be right there with Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Luke Donald and anyone else you'd want to put up there. Even at less than his best, Woods was tied for fourth the past two years. And he hasn't been worse than sixth since his last victory in 2005.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Let's not get carried away here. He'll be listed as the betting favorite, but that's mainly because people bet more money on Tiger than on any other player. He's definitely on the short list of likely winners, but let's not forget the likes of Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald and the other top golfers in the world just because Tiger won this week. Ah, the short memories we have.


2. What part of Tiger's game excelled the most at the Arnold Palmer Invitational for him to get his first official win since November 2009?


Collins: He made the par putts coming down the stretch Sunday that he had been missing in the past. He said his biggest shot Sunday was the par save on 15. I say the way he turned a 75 into a 71 on Saturday was the telling sign.

Evans: Tiger played well from tee to green. We've placed so much emphasis on his putting, but he drove the ball well and hit a lot of greens this week. We forgot that he's not supposed to be a very good putter.

Harig: His long game. Both his driving and long irons. He dominated the par-5s, going 12 under par on those holes. He finished 13 under par for the tournament and led the field in greens hit in regulation.

Maguire: His putting. Woods drained long, clutch putts all day long in the final round. Some were for birdie, but the more important ones were clutch par savers.


3. What part of Tiger's game still needs some work heading into the Masters?


Collins: Distance control, and he said as much. At Augusta there are some holes that, if you miss long, which has been his tendency, you will be penalized.

Evans: He's struggling to fade the ball into right pins and still has the occasional wild shot off the tee. Also, his distance control is inconsistent, a point he makes often since he has added distance.

Harig: His wedges. For some reason, Woods is struggling to hit the ball close from inside 130 yards. Too many times, he hits it 40 feet from the pin when he has the scoring clubs in his hands. He is still having issues with distance control.

Maguire: His chipping. Woods made a few very pedestrian bump and runs Sunday that were saved only by that great putting. Those chips that rolled 10 feet by at Bay Hill might not even stay on the green at Augusta National.


4. True or false: Tiger's back. (And by back we mean he's going to be winning multiple tournaments and maybe a major this year.)


Collins: True. He'll win four to six times this year, including the Masters.

Evans: Tiger was never gone, really. His competitors are just better than they were in his best years. He'll win, but not in big chunks the way he once did.

Harig: True. Woods has been close to winning for several months. There's no reason to think he can't win a couple of times this year, including a major championship. Is he going to dominate and win six or eight times? That is unlikely. But Woods is going to win tournaments.

Maguire: True, but he's not 2000/2001 back. That guy won't ever show up again. Could I foresee wins at courses that suit Tiger, such as Augusta, Quail Hollow and Memorial? Sure, but don't expect a nine-win season or anything like that.