On Friday 27 June, playing at the Quicken Loans National on Washington DC’s tough Congressional Golf Course, Tiger Woods returned a two-round score of 149. This equated to 7-over par which meant he missed the cut line by four shots. Shock horror!
As most know, this was Woods’ first round since undergoing back surgery to fix a pinched nerve. That he missed the cut is not all that surprising. What is surprising, in fact incredibly so, is the actual number of cuts he has missed during his professional career.
We all know and accept that the number of majors won is the prime determinant of where a golfer ranks in the pantheon of all-time greats. However, a statistic that is arguably the next most important could be the number of missed cuts a professional golfer suffers during his career.
Love him or hate him, what no-one can deny is that Tiger’s record on cuts made is simply one of the most impressive statistics in the history of the game.
The PGA Tour gives Woods’ record as 313 events played, 292 cuts made, 18 cuts missed. This may appear at odds with many news items stating that Woods’ latest missed cut brings his career total to just ten. The difference is explained by the fact that Woods played 14 PGA Tour events from 1992-1996 as an amateur. During this time, he made five cuts including the 1996 Open Championship.
Perhaps an equally impressive statistic is the one Woods set when compiling the all-time record for most consecutive cuts made – 142. The sequence, which started in 1998, set a new tour record at the 2003 Tour Championship with 114. This was the point at which his tally passed Byron Nelson’s previous record of 113, having already exceeded Jack Nicklaus’ figure of 105. The run eventually came to an end on 13 May (Black Friday?) at the 2005 EDS Byron Nelson Championship at which point the figure had climbed to an incredible 142.
There are many who consider this the most remarkable golf achievement of all time. Especially so given the margin by which he broke the old record. The next longest streak by any of Woods’ peers during this time was usually in the 10s or 20s. Has there ever been a golfer so dominant for such a long period?
Critics of Tiger Woods – myself included – have often focused on his tendency towards petulance when things are not going right. His demeanour has been increasingly questioned by an ever-inquisitive media, who delighted in highlighting various transgressions, which even extended to such heinousness as spitting on the putting surface. All this attention is undoubtedly a by-product of being so good at what he does – putting together great rounds of golf, week after week, month after month, year after year.
An interesting observation can be made by comparing Woods’ public comments following each one of his ten missed cuts suffered during his professional career:
1997 Canadian Open
“It had to happen. I can’t play my entire career without missing a cut.” — Woods missed the cut by one shot at Royal Montreal. It was his 26th start as a pro.
2005 Byron Nelson Championship
“I just had a tough day. Things I don’t normally do, I did today.”
2005 Funai Classic at Disney
“I played terrible this week. I hit it all over the map — irons, woods, everything. I had a two-way miss. Granted, these fairways are about 300 yards wide, but when you’re missing it both ways, you can’t aim it.”
2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot
“I don’t care if you had what transpired in my life of recent times or not. Poor execution is never going to feel very good.” — This was his first tournament since the death of his father. Woods missed the cut for the first time in a major, by three shots.
2009 British Open at Turnberry
“It was just problem after problem. I kept compounding my problems out there.” — Woods missed the cut by one shot.
2010 Quail Hollow Championship
“It is what it is. Whatever it was, it wasn’t good enough.”
2011 PGA Championship
“I think it’s a step back in the sense that I didn’t make the cut and I’m not contending in the tournament. But it’s a giant leap forward in the fact that I played two straight weeks healthy.”
2012 Wells Fargo Championship
“This is one of my favourite tour stops, and unfortunately, I’m just not going to be around for the last two days.”
2012 Greenbrier Classic
“I didn’t quite have it.”
2014 Quicken Loans National
“I hate to say it, but I’m really encouraged by what happened this week. I missed the cut by four shots — that’s a lot. But the fact that what I was able to do physically, and the speed I had and the distance that I was hitting the golf ball again, I had not done that in a very long time. Felt great today.”
A quick glance at those quotes, representing a 15-year time span, tells the story of a man who is open and honest when describing what amounts to sub-standard performances. These aren’t the words of a petulant and sore loser. They are anything but. Rather, one could argue they show a mind more focused on improvement.
He will be at the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool in two weeks’ time. Will he defend the title he won last time Hoylake hosted this event in 2006?
I wouldn’t bet against it.