The fall of Tiger Woods has been a sad train wreck to watch.
At this point, I’m not sure that his demise can be attributed to the fallout from his scandals, as those are more than 7 years old. Still, his personal crises could not have come at a worse time.
He was recovering from knee surgery; he was reaching an age range where physical limitations begin to set in. This was not a good time for a personal crisis that could affect the mental aspects of his game.
But that was 7 years ago. And Tiger is a great competitor who knows how to win. And even if his body isn’t what it was when he was a Spring chicken, he can still be competitive.
Sadly, except for a few bright spots, Tiger Woods has been in a flat spin.
His driving distance has fallen considerably since his knee surgery. This has put greater pressure on his short game. Making matters worse, his opponents stopped fearing him.
AS a result, he has struggled to get off to good starts in tournaments. This has put greater pressure on him to have good second rounds in order to make cuts. That has forced him to take risks that are more challenging given his diminished physical health. When you’re hitting 300+ yards off the tee, a par 5 is a potential eagle.
If your driving distance falls 10 yards, you’re more likely to be putting for birdie or par where it was once eagle or birdie. If your driving accuracy starts falling, then you will be hitting out of rough–or bunkers–more often than you did before. That means your second shots are going to be coming up short. On a par 4, you might be chipping out of a bunker to get “up and down” where you would have been on the green and putting for birdie.
It’s a lot harder mentally when you have to “go up and down” to save par rather than get a birdie. If you get a bogey, it’s harder to make that up. If you get two bogeys, you’ll be struggling to stay at even par where you might have carded a -2 or a -3. If you take big risks to make up for those bogeys–and fail–you fall deeper into the hole. And due to the competitive nature of the PGA Tour, any score above par puts you in danger of missing the cut.
If you want to WIN, you have to be able to shoot -2 or better for four rounds.
Tiger Woods is having a problem doing that, as the cost of recovering from his mistakes went up at a time when his likelihood of making mistakes also went up.
Can he still win? Certainly. But for that to happen, he will need to be able to put FOUR rounds of solid golf, breaking par every time. And in the majors, he will need to do this against a competitive field that no longer fears him.
At this point, if he wins another Major, it will be the most incredible comeback in golf since Ken Venturi conquered the sweltering heat in the 1964 U.S. Open.
If he somehow finds a way to pass Nicklaus for career Major victories, it will be the most incredible comeback in the history of sports.