“Tiger Woods is on the top of his game, he’s going to win multiple majors this year. Not only that, but golfers are back to fearing what he will do.”
That was the thought process of just about everyone after Woods won the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March for his third win of the season.
The idea that Tiger was back continued after finishing tied for fifth place at the Masters, four strokes behind Adam Scott. Still Woods had three wins, which matched the number he obtained last year.
Then Woods surprised a lot of people by winning the Players Championship by two strokes, his fourth victory of the season. He won the event one time prior, but it was not a course that he had found consistent success on.
At this point, picking Woods to win events was automatic. I fell into this trap at the Memorial along with 95 percent of the other writers covering the event as I took his success at the tournament and this year into account. The result? Woods had his second-worst round of his career and ultimately was dealing with an elbow injury he was keeping from the media.
The same injury clearly affected him at the U.S. Open as viewers could clearly see Woods in pain. This was not 2008 where Woods somehow won the Open over Rocco Mediate on one leg, despite knowing he would not play again that year.
Woods was to play in the AT&T National, his own event; however. he pulled out due to his injury. The Open Championship would be his return and everyone saw one good round and then three frustrating ones to follow, commonplace for Woods in recent years.
The question for Woods has always been when not if he would pass Jack Nicklaus for most career majors. Not only is that in question, but if you ask me, Woods will never win another major.
Woods’ wins in recent years have all come around the same time on the same courses. 31 of his 73 wins have come on or before the Masters. Woods owns these tournaments, but when he has been outside of his comfort zone, he has not been able to win.
After taking time off to deal with personal issues, it took two and a half years to win again. What tournament did he win? The Arnold Palmer Invitational, on a course he owns has won on eight times.
If you ask Woods what matters most it’s the majors, and he has not won any since that 2008 US Open. Woods has had a lot of issues in his career both physical and mental. Like all of us, he is human and has nerves like the rest of us. The popular question among sports media is “Tiger Woods or the field?” What was a pretty clear answer years ago once again is, but in a different direction.
Earlier this year, Woods was sharp on the greens thanks to a putting tip from semi-retired golfer Steve Stricker. However, his putter was very quiet this past weekend at Muirfield as he along with the rest of the field was baffled by the speed of the greens.
Tiger Woods will always be in majors and everyone acknowledges that, however golfers no longer are scared of him and do not fall back as they used to do.
The bottom line is that golf needs Tiger Woods to do well, but by his standards he is not getting the job done because he does not have a major. You have to wonder what is running inside his head as he tries to figure things out again. He is on his third swing coach and third caddie since being on tour.
Perhaps he has taken a step in the right direction with his brief talk following his final round yesterday with former caddy Steve Williams, however for Woods it comes down to 72 holes with each tournament he plays.
Woods has one of the sharpest minds in the game, however it almost seems like he does not put it to the best use. Don’t get me wrong, it is very difficult to hit a drive 300 yards in the fairway each time, anyone who has played golf understands that, but Tiger Woods has slipped back into old habits including some profanity that was caught by ESPN during yesterday’s telecast.
I am not anti-Tiger Woods at all. I do have a lot of respect for him and the accomplishments he’s made thus far in his career. He is a very complex person who can have trust issues, however often times his instincts are correct and serve him well. I would like to see him pass Nicklaus’ record and it would be great for the sport, but something seems off with his game.
Woods still does have plenty of years to try and pass Nicklaus. He does have more majors than Nicklaus did at this stage of his career, but it seems as though Woods’ game has aged much quicker than that of “The Golden Bear.” Woods has one more crack this year to win a major and it comes at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y., site of this year’s PGA Championship.
In its coverage of the Open Championship yesterday, ESPN did something they have not done for as long as I can remember; the took the spotlight off Tiger Woods. When it was clear Woods was not going to win, they did not focus much on him, instead following Mickelson and Lee Westwood, among others. Oftentimes ESPN goes with Woods as he brings ratings with him, however with Mickelson trying to shake off an emotional loss at the US Open and Westwood trying to win his first major at the age of 40, the network decided to shift their coverage in another direction.
Former PGA Tour golfer Paul Azinger was among those on the telecast watching Woods blow another chance at a major and he was open with host Mike Tirico and the viewers.
“This is not the Tiger Woods we’re used to seeing,” Azinger said. “But maybe it’s the Tiger Woods we’re getting used to seeing.”
Fact: Woods has not won a major when trailing after the third round. This puts all of the pressure on Woods. Essentially, when Westwood made birdie on the 17th hole Saturday to take a two shot lead on Woods, the No. 1 player in the world saw his major championship end.
Woods’ trend of one good round followed by three average to mediocre ones is becoming a tired practice, but one he can not shake. The statistics and rankings show Woods at or near the top, however when it matters most Woods just does not have it.
Woods has the chance to prove us wrong in Rochester, but when he is three back after three rounds, don’t be surprised.