Nobody knows what to expect from Tiger Woods anymore. There are still glimpses of the dominant golfer everybody used to know, but they have become few and far between. So it's important for him to put some recent struggles behind him this week at the Players Championship.
It was less than two months ago that Woods looked like he was back on track. After a second-place finish at The Honda Classic, he went on to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational to end his winless drought and all signs pointed toward a resurgence.
His drives were no longer ending up in the rough and putts inside 10 feet were dropping with ease, just like they did in Woods' prime. He couldn't contain his excitement as he walked down the 18th fairway at Bay Hill, a sign that he felt great about his game.
He then showed up at Augusta National and all of that progress suddenly went missing. He didn't break par all week, finishing at five-over. It was amazing to see somebody who had seemingly figured everything out look clueless once again.
After a month off, Woods returned last week in the Wells Fargo Championship and the results were even worse. Apparently the practice sessions didn't do anything to cure his woes as he couldn't generate any momentum.
He proceeded to miss the cut for just the eighth time in his career. Now he enters the Players Championship with just as many questions about the future of his game as ever.
That's why it's crucial for him to have a strong, bounce-back performance this week. Not only so the questions will start fading away again, but also to give himself a much-needed mental boost.
Every expert likes to harp about his swing becoming too mechanical. While that's true, it's not something he can just change in a heartbeat. He's worked tirelessly with Sean Foley to retool his approach. He can't simply turn off his mind and start swinging freely like the good old days.
Woods has to work with what he's got. In this case, that means figuring out a way to make mid-round adjustments when things aren't working. Recently, when things have taken a turn for the worse, they have gone downhill fast.
He must figure out how to grind out rounds. That way whenever he doesn't have his A-game, he can still stay in contention with hopes of getting into form for the weekend.
Even though Woods always talks about the majors as the main reason he plays, the Players Championship holds a high level of importance as well. It's an extremely strong field, so a solid showing would be huge for the 36-year-old superstar.
His lackluster couple of days at Quail Hollow doesn't give anybody reason to believe he'll work his way into contention. But not many people expected him to struggle mightily after getting back in the win column, either. It's just impossible to guess what he'll do anymore.
For the sake of mental relief, he needs to get back on track this week. Unfortunately, not even Woods knows if that's possible.
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