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On the weekend prior to the US PGA, the year’s last major, Tiger Woods easily won – by seven shots – the Bridgestone Invitational, thus giving him an amazing fifth win from just seven PGA Tour starts this year. Moreover, in the last two years he has won four times leading into majors – an incredible ratio which would suggest his game was good to go. Yet come major time Tiger Woods’s game is found wanting, and markedly so.
Woods last win in a major was the US Open at Torrey Pines in 2008. Since that time he has played in 51 ordinary Tour events, not including majors, and won 14. No current player has a win ratio anything like as good. As for majors played during this time, however, he is zero from 18. Is this statistic significant? You judge.
A quick glance at the PGA Tour stats reveals nothing out of the ordinary. Total Driving, GIR, Scrambling and Strokes Gained Putting show reasonably acceptable numbers. But these stats are for all rounds played on the PGA Tour, majors included. What if we separated the majors from the rest?
Tiger Wood’s record in majors over the last two years:
Woods’s record in these events offers some insight. It involves his scoring over the last two rounds at major championships. For the period shown – 2012-2013 – Woods is a cumulative 26-over par for weekend play at the majors. Compare that to the period 2005-11 where he was an amazing 60-under on weekends at majors – a phenomenal difference.
It was Johnny Miller – lead golf analyst for NBC Sports – who, following the final round of this year’s US Open at Merion GC, stated, “Tiger has developed two distinct putting styles; one for the Tour and another for majors.” This after watching Woods amass 128 putts, including five three-putts, at Merion. That is an average of 32 putts per round!
Some weeks later, during the course of weekend play at the Open Championship at Muirfield, Woods took 66 strokes with the putter. The winner, Mickelson, took ten less.
These statistics are from the man many regarded as the best putter the game has ever seen.
But the problem may not be restricted to putting alone.
During the last round of the Open Championship Woods was in the penultimate group, partnered with the player many regard as now possessing the best swing in golf – Adam Scott. The number of times Scott hit driver to Woods’s 5-come-3-wood was noticeable, as indeed was the result. Not only has Woods lost what used to be regarded as controlled aggression, but his shot selection has become very conservative. His confidence with driver appears to be extremely low, as indeed it should be given the trouble it nets him these days.
Woods himself appears to be in denial. His comments post the US Open and The Open cited his inability to read the speed of the greens as the reason for not performing better. Many putts at the PGA were similarly short.
Where has the aggression gone?
Perhaps Woods could talk to other “legends” who have experienced something similar. Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson contended in majors into their early 40s (Watson a lot longer), but never won one after the age of 33 because of putting.
History tells us of many famous names – Hogan, Snead, Miller, and more recently, Ernie Ells – who lost their putting stroke never to get it back.
Tiger, noted for his gutsy grinding skills, is not likely to confess publicly to any shortfall in his game. But without the natural aggression born of confidence, so prominent in his prime, the putting stroke he currently uses when competing in majors is likely to be found wanting.
Whatever the reason for Tiger’s major malaise, he needs to fix it soon if he is to challenge Jack’s record of 18 major victories. This analysis suggests the root of the problem lies somewhere between his left ear and his right – just like the rest of us – except his only surfaces during the majors.