Tiger Woods has not been close to winning a major in five years. That should tell the “golf experts” a great deal. But it doesn't.
So, last week the bookmakers had Tiger Woods as the man to beat in a major. Once again.
And once again the American came up short. For the 20th time in a row, to be exact. Some people may call that a pattern. The only pattern - when you speak Tiger and golf - is that both the press and the hard core Tiger fans live in denial. To be fair, Tiger has only played 16 of the last 20 majors due to various reasons, but between 1997 (when he won the Masters) and 2008 (when he won the US Open), Woods did not miss one single major. He did not have big injuries or domestic problems that got in the way. This guy was in control.
But Tiger's stats in majors are not getting better, they are getting worse. Before 2009, when Woods crashed his SUV into a tree in Florida, the golf world could only measure success in majors, and Woods dominated those. Now that he has not won a single one in five years, suddenly they don’t mean a thing.
A few years ago Luke Donald vaporized all competition, securing four titles in 2011, clinching the number 1 spot on the world ranking and winning the money lists on both the PGA Tour and the European Tour as the first player ever. But the Englishman did not win a major, so to Tiger Maniacs, this did not count as a bona fide superior season.
Rory McIlroy got a little more credit from the US press and fans, but ironically, the Irishman took care of his own downfall shortly after he had become the darling of Nike and the American golfing public. At the same time Wood started winning tournaments, and suddenly, everything was back to 2007: Tiger was “the Man with the Plan” and even Phil Mickelson – who had in reality been the best player in the world in 2008 and 2009, but fell asleep when Tiger got side tracked – woke up again and started winning tournaments.
Last week Woods gave one of his the worst performances in a major as a professional. After his father’s death in 2006 Woods missed the cut in the US Open at Winged Foot with rounds of 76 and 76, and that number came up again last week at Merion. This time, in the third round, after starting the day just four shots from the lead. Two weeks prior to that, Tiger had posted a 79 in the third round of the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village. That was his worst round on the PGA Tour as a professional, and he did not break 70 all week in the tournament he was defending champion in.
Of course he would be the favorite to win his next tournament, that being last week’s US Open.
Woods is not playing bad this season. His has made the cut in all of his eight stroke play tournaments so far this season, and he has four victories. But despite the fact that he came in fourth in the Masters, he has not been close to winning neither of this year’s majors, and winning majors is the one thing Tiger is living for. Winning 19 of them is his ticket to greatness beyond anyone else, and that’s the one factor that has driven this man since he can remember.
When he won the US Open at Torrey Pines on one leg in 2008 he reached 14 majors and has not clinched another one since. That’s five years and 20 majors ago. Still, highly knowledgeable people in the golf world - writers and commentators - initiates every round in a major with a summary of what Woods usually does from this and that position, and how many majors he won in this and that fashion. Yup! He sure did. But that was then. This is now, and what Tiger has done the last 20 majors, is either fold under pressure or fade away somewhere around the end of the second round and the beginning of the third. That’s what the new Tiger does on a regular basis in a major.
Can it change? Can he win majors again? Sure. Why not? But just don’t take it for granted, because Tiger Woods of new is not the Tiger Woods of old. It’s as simple as that. Really.
image: © Keith Allison