The Return of Tiger Woods?

The 2015 season has been a rough one for Tiger Woods. He missed the cut at three of the four majors, and has not been the same player since his record-breaking 2013 season. Needing a high finish this week to advance to the Fed Ex Cup Playoffs, Tiger Woods fell just short. At last week’s Wyndham Championship, however, he did show signs of his former invincible self. The former world #1 finished with a very respectable 13 under (-13) four round total, good for his first top ten of the season. If not for a triple bogey meltdown on the 11th hole, Tiger would have had a good chance to put pressure on Davis Love III and possibly force a playoff. But, the 51-year old future Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III ultimately prevailed. The old Tiger would have never let this happen. So the question remains, will Tiger ever return to his former self?

The difference in Tiger Woods’ sensational 2013 campaign versus his 2015 fall out is quite remarkable. Upon taking a closer look, it is no wonder that he is having such a terrible year. In what is regarded as the most important golf statistic, strokes gained tee to green, Tiger has gone from a + 1.600 to a -.908. Meaning that instead of gaining over a stroke and a half on the field in the distance between his drive and approach shot he now loses about a stroke to his competitors. This stat is largely due to his lack of control off the tee this season; according to the statistics provided by the PGA Tour, he has missed 6.75% more fairways in this season than in 2013. With this lack of control, Woods is forced to scramble to save par instead of going for birdie as he used to.

Not everything is falling out though; the one statistic that Tiger is improving on is his length off of the tee. In this season, Tiger drove the ball seven yards farther, but if he can’t keep the ball in the fairway, this gain in distance is useless. If Tiger can gain back the confidence he once had in his driver he will return to greatness, but until then he will continue to struggle.

After this weekend’s performance, I for one believe that Tiger still does, in fact, have what it takes to compete on the Tour. He may have lost some of his spark, but he still remains the most polarizing and popular figure in the game of golf. Tiger’s presence on the leaderboard directly correlates with fanfare. Because Tiger was in contention this week, crowds at Sedgefield Country Club were as packed as ever, and TV ratings were much higher than expected.

So, one thing is for sure, Tiger’s future success is essential for the game of golf.  If fans start seeing the Sunday red in the late afternoon in competition with the likes of Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, the sky is the limit for the future of golf.


Picture courtesy of USA Today

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