It’s been way too long since we checked in on our guy Eldrick.
The last time we did a status report on our main man was back in July.
Back then he had just come off of a T21 finish at the 2019 US Open at Pebble Beach and was struggling to regain form after his triumphant Masters victory.
I was taking stock of where his game and body stood and previewing The 2019 Open Championship.
Let’s catch you up to speed on what has happened with Tiger since that post:
Remainder of the 2019 PGA Tour Season
- Missed the cut at The Open Championship in July of 2019
- Withdrew before his 2nd round of the 2019 Northern Trust with an oblique strain in early August
- Finished T37 at the BMW Championship a week later, failing to qualify for the 2019 Tour Championship
2020 PGA Tour Season
- Won the Zozo Championship in late October in Japan for his record-tying 82nd win on the PGA Tour
- Finished 4th at the Hero World Challenge during the first week of December
- Captained the US team to a victory over the International team at the 2019 Presidents Cup in Australia in mid-December while playing to a 3-0-0 record, and looking to be the best golfer on either team
- Finished T9 at the Farmers Insurance Open in January
- Finished dead last at the Genesis Open in Febuary
- Didn’t play in the WGC-Mexico Championship in late February or the The Honda Classic in early March
- Skipped both the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Players Championship in March citing back stiffness
So as you can see the last ~9 months of Tiger’s golf existence have been a mixed bag to say the least. Some amazing moments (Zozo and Presidents Cup victories), some terrible moments (missed cut at The Open Championship, injury withdrawals, dead fucking last finish at the Genesis Open) and some decent, uneventful finishes at tournaments where Tiger played fine-to-good and nobody got hurt.
If you’re looking for an explanation of Tiger’s hot start to the 2020 season after stumbling to the finish line in 2019 then I have the answer.
Tiger had surgery on his left knee in late August to repair “minor cartilage damage.”
On the Monday before the Zozo Championship back in October Tiger said that he had originally planned to get the knee surgery done before the 2018 Hero World Championship but postponed it because after winning the 2018 Tour Championship because he didn’t want to ruin the momentum his game had.
He went on to say that the condition of his knee deteriorated over the course of the 2019 season to the point that it was putting stress on his back, impacting how he could read putts and how he walked.
So as a Tiger fan, after hearing this I thought:
“Great news. I was wondering why Tiger played so mediocre after winning the Masters and now we have an explanation. It wasn’t his back, it was “only” a knee issue and now that is cleaned up so he should be good to go.”
Tiger even mentioned how his body felt better overall than it had the last couple of years.
So when he went on to do this later in the week:
Here is a video of Gary Woodland, who played with Tiger on Saturday and Sunday at the Zozo raving about how good Tiger’s game looked:
If you can’t watch that video don’t worry. It took me like 10 minutes to watch the whole thing thanks to the constant advertisements and lagging.
Am I the only one who thinks video players that are embedded on a website are the bane of humanity?
Just post it to the GolfChannel Youtube.
Anyway, back to business.
At this point my expectations for Tiger’s 2020 season went into overdrive.
Dating back to September 2018 and the Tour Championship Tiger had now won 3 tournaments in the prior 13 months.
Then he shows up in Australia for the Presidents Cup in December and does this:
He played better than any player on either team.
The one blip in Australia was Tiger deciding to sit out both the morning and afternoon sessions on Saturday.
It seemed fishy at the time and Vice Captain Fred Couples confirmed my suspicion that Tiger sitting out was a fitness issue.
Even with this minor injury concern, I was starting to think Hmmmm … why couldn’t Tiger still be considered the best player in the world?
Sure Brooks Koepka has been on a historic rampage in Majors over the last couple of years but at that moment Brooks was still on the mend due to knee surgery and you would be hard-pressed to find more than a couple players who were playing at the level Tiger was.
He took around a month off after the Presidents Cup and went to Torrey Pines and played solid, not great, and finished T9.
Then …. something happened and we’re still not totally sure what.
Let’s start with the facts:
2.5 weeks after his solid showing at the Farmers Insurance Open (some of these golf tournaments have the most hilarious names) at Torrey Pines, Tiger finished a dead-last 68th! At the Genesis Open at Riviera Golf Course.
Hey, at least he made the cut.
He finished at +11!!! A full 22! Shots off the winner Adam Scott.
Where did this come from?
I noticed watching the tournament that Tiger seemed way skinnier than the last time we saw him play (obsessive I know but I was vindicated in my suspicion as we will get to).
He was also moving much less fluidly.
He looked 64 rather than 44.
What went wrong?
*Takes out Sherlock Holmes’ magnify glass*
Well well well, what do we have here.
You have no idea how many Boomer political memes and tweets I just had to dig through on that guy’s timeline to get to that tweet.
It’s called investigative journalism.
Our guy Mark was responding to this tweet:
Where Bob Harig, golf writer for ESPN announced that Tiger would not be playing at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and Ryan Lavner, a senior writer for the Golf Channel added the extra nugget that Tiger was in fact dealing with back stiffness at the Genesis.
Looks like Mark was on to something.
I couldn’t find any clips of a shot from the sand from Tiger’s first round at the Genesis Open, but it seems like the most likely explanation is that he injured himself during the tournament and that is why he looked so terrible.
But remember how I said Tiger looked underweight at the Genesis?
Well here he is after his final round admitting as much:
So here’s my theory: Either Tiger hurt his back in the couple of weeks between the Farmers Insurance Open and the Genesis Open, and tried to play through it because he was hosting the Genesis and it has been made an “elevated status event” by the PGA Tour, or he hurt himself sometime during the tournament.
Skipping the WGC-Mexico Championship the next week, or the Honda Classic the week after didn’t set off alarm bells.
But when Bob Harig and Ryan Lavner let us know that, because of his back, Tiger wouldn’t be playing the Arnold Palmer Invitational, an event he has won 8 times in his career, 2.5 weeks after he last played, that was definitely a cause for concern.
The week before The Players Championship, Notah Begay, who is friends with Tiger, said Tiger was still dealing with the effects of the end to his 2019, specifically playing the Hero World Challenge in The Bahamas, and then flying all the way to Australia to play in the Presidents Cup:
When news came out that Tiger wouldn’t be playing the 2020 Players Championship, which would be teeing off 3.5 weeks since Tiger had last played, the panic button was officially been pressed.
The Players is the biggest non-major tournament of the year and if almost a month of recovery time wasn’t enough for Tiger to be able to play something must be seriously wrong.
Even when Bob Harig tweeted out a statement from Tiger’s agent Mark Steinberg:
It was not enough to calm Tiger fans’ concern.
The Players ended up getting cancelled because of the ‘Rona (maybe you’ve heard of it) and so here we are.
Just this week news trickled out that a “Tiger vs. Phil Match II” is in the works, possibly featuring Peyton Manning and Tom Brady paired up with Tiger and Phil.
The fact that this is even in discussion gives me hope that Tiger is feeling better physically.
All in all I am cautiously optimistic that Tiger will have a solid 2020 and compete in a major or 2, if the 2020 PGA Tour season ever continues.
Maybe this break was a blessing for Tiger’s golf season, now he has the time to be able to fully recover physically, before the tournaments start up again (let’s stay optimistic here … there will be sports in 2020!!!!)
Obviously people dying from a global pandemic is a more serious issue than golf and Tiger Woods but just relax I’m not a doctor and if you’re coming to PeopleForgetThat.com for commentary on the Big C you are cooked in the brain.
Stay safe and wash your hands!