Tuesday 23 January 2018

History turning against Tiger

After another missed cut in a Major, where to next for a struggling Tiger Woods

'I'm hitting shots and able to hit shots that I haven't been able to hit in years' - but Tiger Woods' travails continued at the US PGA Championship Photo: Tom Pennington
'I'm hitting shots and able to hit shots that I haven't been able to hit in years' - but Tiger Woods' travails continued at the US PGA Championship Photo: Tom Pennington

Ewan Murray

Further bad news arrives for Tiger Woods by way of a statistic. Only three of the last 43 Major championship winners have been 40 or older; the fallen great of the links reaches that magic number in December. That landmark has come around quickly for those who remember the dominant Woods; who knows what the man thinks with regards to his upcoming birthday.

Whereas recent history used to be so much in Woods's favour, now it points towards his difficulties at every turn. Jack Nicklaus won two Majors at 40 but the year had not been preceded by anything like the elongated struggles that now define Woods.

Who could possibly have foreseen that Woods's 30s in Majors would end like this? That his US Open triumph at 32 would be the last on the biggest stages until now?

He missed the US PGA Championship cut, just as he had done in the US Open and Open Championship, having returned here yesterday morning to complete a round that had been disrupted by a violent storm on Friday evening. Woods departed at four-over par, having added a 73 to his opening round of 75. He has carded seven over-par rounds in succession in Majors.

"I hit it good enough to be where I needed to be, but I putted awful," Woods said. "I finally figured something out today on the putting green but the damage had already been done. I finally rolled the ball coming in and unfortunately it was too little, too late.

"It's been one or the other: ball striking sound or then putting bad or putting great then ball striking is not so solid. I haven't been able to put consistently both together for an entire event. Maybe for a day or two but not for an event.

"So far, 10 events this year, obviously it's a very small sample, but I'm pleased at the way I'm starting to hit the ball. Now if I can start putting like I did today or what I did at Quicken Loans a couple weeks ago, then we have got something."

It must be noted that few players in the history, let alone those even approaching Woods's talent levels, have pointed towards struggles on the greens as much as the 14-times Major winner does.

Curiously, this routinely involves the pace of greens - as if Woods is somehow taken aback by what he has to putt on during any given week. Short grass seems to take him by surprise.

So what next? That question has rarely been quite so straightforward for Woods. He has entered into this week's Wyndham Championship - where he has never previously appeared - but is not fully committed to playing. "I'm just going to sit back and I'll go through with my team, we'll talk about it, what I need to do and see if that's the right move or not," he said. "We'll decide next couple days."

If Woods does appear, it would be to his credit, thereby emphasising a desire to test his game where it must be tested, in a competitive format. The 39-year-old has little else in the pipeline, given his current failure to even almost qualify for the PGA Tour's FedEx series. Yet, he is outwardly upbeat, edging perhaps towards the realms of delusion.

"The confidence is growing quickly," he said. "That's the fun part. I'm hitting shots and able to hit shots that I haven't been able to hit in years. To have the control that I need to have going forward, it's starting to come back.

"I just need to get more consistent in tournament golf. The only way you can do that is by playing, I have a lot of golf to be played around the world.

"The first two events of the year were not very good at all. Hence I took the break to try and figure it out. And came back at Augusta and had my short game back.

"Then I started getting my ball striking in order, but then I lost my putting. I hit too many balls and neglected my chipping because I thought that was sound again.

"People kept asking me this week: Is it your season [over]? No, it's not really about the season, it's about the year.

"I haven't quite come to grips with the whole non-calendar season yet, this whole wraparound thing, so for me I still consider it a year. And I still have plenty of golf to be played for the rest of the year on a global level."


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