Notah on Tiger: 50/50 for the Masters
By Stephanie Wei under Tiger Woods

Notah Begay, Golf Channel analyst and BFF to Tiger Woods, spoke with Scott Rude of 120 Sports in a phone interview and said that Woods has seen “steady improvement” in his game in the last couple of weeks and that there’s a “50/50” chance the 14-time major champion will tee it up at Augusta National for the Masters.

“I think his golf game as a whole is in a great place,” said Begay. “I think it was good for him to take a step back and assess a variety of things and do things on his timeline. It’s easy to get bullied into trying to acquiesce to the media’s concerns, or the PGA Tour’s concerns, or other people’s agendas.

“My suggestion to him was to take as much time as he needed to figure out this issue with his short game and also to work on or clean up a couple of things that might be a little loose with his golf swing. In any transition, in any change you’re making, it takes a little time to settle. That’s what he’s done. I think things are really settling. We’ve had some good discussions in the last week or so. He feels good about it.”

Begay added that the odds for Woods playing at Augusta have improved over the last three weeks.

“As far as Augusta is concerned, it’s literally a 50/50 chance right now from what I can tell,” he said. “Three weeks ago, I would’ve said there was a 1-in-10 chance of him playing at Augusta.”

So, what’s changed over those weeks?

“Well, just some steady improvement,” said Begay. “I don’t know there was any one thing in specific that a player looks at, but it’s simply something a player feels when they step on a golf course and they feel like they can go out there and defend themselves.

“You’re going to deal with challenges every day — sometimes it’s mechanical, sometimes it’s obstacles on the course, sometimes it’s in the gallery, you just never know where it’s going to come from. If a player feels like they can do what they want, then they go out and play.”

On February 11, Woods announced via his website that he was taking an indefinite leave of absence because his game was unacceptable for tournament golf and that he would return when he felt like it was ready for competition.

Woods skipped last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, a place where he’s won eight times — which was disconcerting, to say the least. I mean, if Woods didn’t feel like he was ready to get around a course where he’s had so much success, then it raised questions as to where exactly the state of his game was. Now, we’re wondering if Woods will add a last-minute tournament to his schedule before showing up to the Masters with only a few tournament rounds under his belt in 2015 (and not very good ones, to boot). He has until 5pm ET on Friday to commit to next week’s Shell Houston Open, the last event before the season’s first major.

In my humble opinion and not knowing exactly the current status or particulars of his short game issues, I’d think it’d be difficult for Tiger to make his return at Augusta National because the course is so demanding when it comes to chipping. If he shows up and is still struggling with the chipping yips, then it could be a serious disaster, and I wouldn’t think that would be the place to test it out in competition for the first time in a few months, either.

Woods has fallen to no. 96 in the world rankings and is expected to continue to plummet outside the top 100 before the Masters.