Tiger Woods faces another spell on the sidelines following ankle surgery, but while some are writing him off, Iona Stephen believes the 15-time Major champion will return and has one more win in him.
Seeing Tiger make yet another cut at The Masters was exceptional. What an incredible achievement. When he birdied the 15th in the second round, the noise around Augusta was incredible with the patrons thinking that would be enough to get him into the weekend. Then he bogeyed the last couple and there was an almost flat feeling across the grounds.
It was kind of ironic that it was his best pal, Justin Thomas, stumbling at the end of his second round and dropping shots that saw the cutline move out to three-over and get Tiger into the weekend.
It was such a shame that the weather took that unbelievably sour turn. Being a hearty Scotswoman myself, I’m not saying this lightly – it was freezing cold. It was about 6ºC, but the wind was icy cold. With the amount of rain and how much softer and harder to walk the course became, it was no surprise when Tiger withdrew. There was nothing for him to gain by coming back out there.
Augusta National, as you’ll hear many people talking about has enormous changes in elevation. Ned Michaels and I went out to walk a few holes on Tuesday and Wednesday and I could really feel it in my legs.
It’s hard to articulate just how tough a walk Augusta is until you’ve been there. I walked down to Amen Corner and that drop from the clubhouse down to the 12th is crazy. The green is just under the height of the Leaning Tower of Piza above you. When you stand at the clubhouse and look across, it is like looking across a big valley. You just see these holes disappearing way down into a gully.
When you consider that and the weather, it really couldn’t have been a worse scenario for Tiger.
Is it the end for him? No. I think he’ll be back. He’ll rehab again and return. Of all the Majors I think the Masters, in terms of the terrain, was always going to be the toughest on his body and the fact conditions didn’t play ball just made it impossible.
If conditions had been good then I really wouldn’t have been surprised to see his name in the top 10. He’s clearly still capable of being competitive because the ball speed’s there and he has the shots, it just comes down to the physical demands on his body in-between shots.
Will we see Tiger win another Major? I’m not sure, but I do think we will see him win again on the PGA Tour and reach that magic 82 to overtake Sam Snead.
The sky’s the limit for Jon Rahm
One person who did benefit from the start-stop nature at Augusta was Jon Rahm. It played into his hands. Brooks Koepka was on a roll but I think the weather delays killed his momentum. And you can’t give Jon Rahm an inch because he’s going to grab it.
And sometimes these moments happen for a reason. For Jon to win on what would have been Seve’s birthday on the 40th anniversary of his second Masters win had a kind of magic about it. It was a huge moment for European and Spanish golf, but particularly ahead of the Ryder Cup. It’s great to see Rahm doing so well and I’m hopeful that will generate momentum for the rest of the Europeans.
It’s easy to forget that he is still in his 20s. What Jon has achieved already and the maturity that he shows as a champion is exceptional. Not only has he got all of the game, he’s a fierce competitor and the sky is the limit for his career.
He’s similar to Rory in that he’s very headstrong, takes responsibility for his own game and his performance, and he sets his own bar. At the moment it’s a different bar to everyone else’s and his standards are extremely high.
I can’t wait to see what the rest of the season brings for him.
About the author
Iona Stephen – Broadcaster and Today’s Golfer contributor
Iona Stephen is a former professional golfer, who has played on the Ladies European Tour, and is a highly-respected golf broadcaster.
She joined Today’s Golfer as a regular contributor in 2023 and offers insight into the professional game from her life working on the world’s biggest tours.
Stephen’s career has seen her work for Sky Sports Golf, CBS, the BBC, and NBC Golf Channel covering everything from The Masters and The Open, to the Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup. She has also hosted prize presentations to a global audience at some of the DP World Tour’s flagship events.
The Scotswoman is as comfortable covering the game from the commentary booth as she is broadcasting in front of the camera and from the course, where she is regularly seen interviewing the world’s best players during their rounds.
Alongside her television work, Stephen also has her own YouTube channel – On The Road With Iona – which has welcomed guests including Jon Rahm, Niall Horan, Rick Shiels, Bronte Law, and Martin Slumbers.
She is also the first-ever female on-course commentator in EA Sports gaming history and can be heard on PGA Tour Road to The Masters.
Outside of golf, Stephen is an ambassador for the charity BIG CHANGE, supporting young people throughout the UK to thrive in life, not just exams. She also has an interest in optimizing health and energy for elite performance in sports and life and has a diploma in sports nutrition and a level 2 PT qualification.
She is also a mentor as part of the Stephen Gallagher Foundation buddy system and has a degree in history of art from the University of St Andrews.