Another Green Jacket up for grabs? Six areas of improvement for Tiger Woods

Woods' win at Doral was his most significant since the 2009 scandal. Kevin Garside studies six facets of World No 2's new approach with the Masters just a month away

1 On the dance floor

100, a big number, but not over four days on rapier greens. That is the total number of putts Tiger Woods sank to win over Doral's Blue Monster last week, the lowest of his career. This is where it starts and ends for Woods, where his rivals see the whites of his eyes, and why he is favourite to end his five-year major hiatus at the Masters next month. In his pomp, everything inside 15 feet disappeared. After a chat with fabled flat-stick guru, Steve Stricker, on the eve of the Cadillac Championship, Woods rediscovered the key to nirvana. He recorded a career-best 24 birdies over the first three rounds in Miami. His tournament total of 27 was only one shy of his best, and that's because he was protecting a four-shot lead on Sunday not trying to shoot the lights out.

2 Off the tee

Woods was never gun-barrel straight with a driver in his hands. Long, yes; accurate, most of the time; wild, some of the time. Since taking up with Sean Folley following Hank Haney's withdrawal during the post-scandal fallout, Woods has completely remodelled his swing to take account of the injuries that have savaged his left leg over the years. Accuracy is now at a premium. He feels he can hit the high draw, the cut or the low stinger to order. He has acquired a love of the strategic three-wood, which in his hands is no impediment to length since he hits it further than most do a driver. Last year at the US Open he consistently hit the big stick beyond playing partners Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson, who both hit it a country mile.

3 On the fairway

Finally, Woods is consistently hitting his yardages. Pros calculate back from the pin working the ball off the tee into a position where they can attack the hole from the right distance, one that best suits their game and conditions. Woods claims that he is hitting his irons longer than he ever has. This is due in the most part to ball technology and improvement in equipment. The real leap made by Woods this year is managing better his distance control. There are fewer surprises because he is utterly at ease with the swing changes made. "I feel like my game's becoming more efficient, and it's more consistent day-in and day-out. I'm very pleased with the progress I've made with Sean. That's obviously a big change from when we started out."

4 Holding his nerve

Woods was groomed by his parents to compete. That cold stare he takes on to the course is effectively a mind-management system that permits no intrusion from without. Even on the bad days, Woods dogs it out, evidenced by the low number of missed cuts during a 17-year career. They remain in single figures. Woods also understands the impact the death stare has on others. When he is on his game, he knows it's worth a shot or two a round. Just ask Ernie Els how playing with Woods impacted on his career. Woods' iron nerve never deserted him. His ability to execute under pressure is now demonstrably back to its formidable best because it is aligned to a more secure technique. And on the greens he is a beast again. That makes him doubly dangerous.

5 Taking on his rivals

Golf is no different to any other sport in loving a head-to-head. Woods has taken them all down over the years, from Vijay Singh and Els, through to David Duval and Mickelson. The sex scandal of 2009 and the marriage breakdown that followed, coupled with persistent injuries, was arguably his toughest opponent. He's over all that now and staring down the new generation led by world No 1 Rory McIlroy, already a double major winner at 23. Miami was a big week for both, Woods demonstrating the return of omnipotence, McIlroy that the switch to Nike and the Honda Classic meltdown are no longer issues. He was magnificent on Sunday, posting a bogey-free 65 that was bettered only by Adam Scott. Woods could retake the No 1 spot even before the Masters with victory at Bay Hill. McIlroy plays once before Augusta, at Houston. Then it's all about the Green Jacket, Woods' desire to bank that 15th major and McIlroy's to lay the ghost of 2011 and prove he really is the man.

6 On the catwalk

The one area where Woods is struggling. Woods dresses – as well as putts – like the avuncular Steve Stricker. McIlroy wins this one hands down in Nike's edgy, new bling range.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week