2013 Masters: Why Tiger Woods Is Under More Pressure Than Ever at Augusta

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistApril 11, 2013

AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 11:  Tiger Woods of the United States lines up a putt on the 17th green during the first round of the 2013 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 11, 2013 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

The wait has been long and nearly intolerable for Tiger Woods.

The No. 1 golfer in the world is not concerned with rankings or money earned. He plays golf to accumulate championships.

In particular, he wants major championships.

Woods has been waiting since last year's PGA Championship to pick up his chase once again. That tournament was played in August and Woods finished in a tie for 11th.

When it comes to major championships, Woods has 14 under his belt. All of those victories were accumulated through the 2008 golf season. He has not won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open, beating Rocco Mediate in a memorable playoff.

Woods' life has been thrown open and torn asunder since. In addition to the embarrassment of seeing his private life go public, Woods has had a slew of health problems. In particular, his left knee has caused him pain and difficulty.

Woods has rebuilt and repaired his personal life. And his injury problems are in the past, as his left knee is healthy once again.

He is in excellent shape to resume his majors pursuit at the 2013 Masters.

After one round, history says Woods is right where he needs to be. He registered a two-under 70 and is four strokes behind Australian Marc Leishman, who fired a six-under 66.

Woods has shot an opening round of 70 four times in the past and ended up winning the tournament on three of those occasions.

Woods has won three tournaments already this year and has regained his top ranking in the world. He has served notice that he is back on his game and ready to win the Masters again.

That has created more interest in the tournament than usual. The Masters is always an immense tournament, filled with tradition and an overbearing amount of reverence.

Casual fans and golf aficionados will watch this tournament with bated breath. Everyone wants to see if Woods can win his fifth Masters title and 15th major championship.

That interest also translates into significant pressure.

Woods knows it and can't avoid it. But if you look at his career, pressure has been his constant companion. He has regularly felt the pressure, acknowledged it and found a way to overcome it.

However, the pressure at this point in his career is a different kind of animal. He puts pressure on himself. He knows the whole world is watching. He knows he hasn't won a major since 2008. He knows the clock is ticking.

It's ticking because he's 37 years old and Jack Nicklaus has 18 majors on his resume. It seemed like Woods would pass that mark rather easily about five years ago. Now, it doesn't look so easy.

Woods does not have to win the Masters if he is going to eventually get by Nicklaus. He could win the U.S. Open, the British Open or the PGA Championship and it would count as another major on his list of career achievements.

However, every time he plays a major and does not win, it creates more pressure the next time out.

Woods was not spectacular in the first round. He had a clean scorecard on the front nine, with two birdies and seven pars. On the back nine, he added one more birdie but also had a bogey. He seemed to tighten up just a tad on the final few holes, but not enough to cause him any long-term problems.

Woods merely bided his time in the first round and that's good enough. However, from this point forward, he would be best served by going at it hard.

Woods likes to seize control of a major tournament in the second and third rounds. That's been his way since turning professional in 1996.

If he can do that once again, he may be on track for his fifth green jacket.