Where Tiger stands after a few months post-Masters
Is this the way things are going to be for Tiger going forward?
Since we last spoke about our main man’s triumph at Augusta National, he has teed it up on only 3 occasions. Those being, the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, The Memorial at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, and this past weekend’s US Open at Pebble Beach.
Seems like Tiger’s body is only going to allow him to play every season’s slate of majors, plus a sprinkling of a few other tournaments each year, like The Players the Memorial Tournament, and the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Questioning this strategy is dumb. If Tiger could play more, we all know he would.
Now the question is: Can Tiger win majors with this playing schedule?
My gut answer is probably not. It seems that the PGA tour is too stacked with this current generation of golfers who are both younger and longer (for the most part) off the tee than Tiger, for him to stroll into a major, with a month off since his last official start on tour, and emerge victorious.
For instance at Bethpage, Tiger’s return to the course after his Masters victory, he did not practice on Wednesday before the first round due to an apparent sickness, and ended up missing the cut.
One quote after Tiger’s second round raised some alarm bells for me. Specifically, “I just wasn’t moving the way I needed to,” Woods said. “That’s the way it goes. There’s going to be days and weeks where it just doesn’t work.”
That to me seems like Tiger attributing his poor play less to illness and more to general stiffness related to his troublesome back. Tiger delved into the difficulties of preparing to play nowadays before the PGA Championship saying, “Being a little bit older and with the back the way it is, there’s a lot of concerns,” he said, “and when it comes to what do I need to do to get ready and be ready to go, sometimes the quick turnarounds may be a little bit more difficult.”
Tiger did seem hopeful that he could regain his form before he departed Long Island stating, “There’s no reason why I can’t get up to speed again and crank it back up. I’ve got to start feeling a little bit better first before that happens. We’ll do that first and then start cranking it back up again.”
Rather than a repeat of his month off, then major start, strategy Tiger elected to play the Memorial Tournament before the US Open. Woods finished the Memorial T9 after a 5 under Sunday and seemed to be in a much better position to compete for his 16th major heading into Pebble beach two weeks later in mid-June.
Tiger’s week at Pebble was up-and-down as he finished T21. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed. Seeing as Tiger has a great history at the course, I figured at Top 10 was in order. What was particularly worrying was Tiger’s start to his final round.
As you can see, he looked very stiff, and was grunting and grimacing with every shot, even when going to place the ball on the tee. He also had kinesiology tape visible on his neck, which is supposed to provide pain relief. All that led to 4 bogeys over the first 6 holes.
Tiger did rebound to save his round, with a 6 under final 12 holes, including 4 birdies on the last 6 holes.
After an even par 71 on Saturday at the US Open, Tiger gave us some insight into the state of his body when he said, “When it’s cold like this everything is achy. It’s just part of the deal.” He went on to say, ” It’s all the same. It’s been like that for years. The forces have to go somewhere. And if they’re not in the lower back, they’re in the neck, and if not, they’re in the mid-back and if not they go to the knee. You name it” and also, ” As I say my back impacts every shot I play, it’s just part of the deal. Let me put it this way, I feel every shot I hit. I think that’s always going to be the place from here going forward.”
So going forward here is what we can expect from Tiger.
Some starts at majors or other tournaments where it is clear his body is not cooperating, and he struggles mightily, perhaps even missing the cut.
Other times where he tees it up and looks great, swing is smooth, does not seem to be laboring physically, and thus is in contention.
A playing schedule that is scattered and dependent on his physical state.
With all that being said, I would say the % chance that Tiger passes or even ties Jack’s record of 18 majors is extremely low. He is Tiger Woods on the other hand, and the odds that he would win another major over a decade since his last one, with all the surgeries and setbacks and scandals, was practically nonexistent.
Every time Tiger tees it up I am going to enjoy it for what it is. Placing unrealistic expectations on the guy cheapens the pleasure of watching him play.
Maybe he will win another major, maybe he wont.
The fact that he is playing at a high level again is a miracle.
However, if he is in contention on Sunday again at another major I promise my “enjoy it for what is is” mindset will go flying out the window.
Let’s see what he has in store for us at Royal Portrush Golf Club in County Antrim, Northern Ireland for the Open Championship in two weeks.