US Open Golf Scores 2012: Solid Start Shows Tiger Woods Is Back on Track
So, Tiger Woods comes into the 2012 US Open after winning Jack Nicklaus' tournament and he's grouped with Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson and they struggle while he shoots a one-under 69? Is Tiger back?
Deep breath, people. But yes, Tiger might just be back, and no, it'll have nothing to do with whether or not he finishes atop the leaderboard.
True, Tiger's greatness isn't typically measured in top-10 finishes or victories at second- or third-tier events, but rather in Major championships. Woods is in the business of winning Majors, as he's done three times at the US Open.
He's also in the business of playing golf in general, which he's done surprisingly well of late. He's won three events in the last seven months, including two in 2012. He's also missed all of one cut in that span—at the Wells Fargo Championship in early May.
Woods currently sits sixth on the PGA Tour in scoring average and has rocketed back up to fourth in the World Golf Rankings. He may not be quite the Tiger of old (and might never be), but he's not exactly lost in the Woods anymore.
And even if he fails to win a Major this year, it won't necessarily mean that Tiger isn't still on the path to contention. He won six events without a Major championship in 2003 and two in 2004, with Jay Mariotti screaming about him slumping at every possible opportunity on Around the Horn. Tiger also went Major-less in 2009, though he managed to take home seven lesser titles.
Of course, he wasn't dogged by injuries in 2003 and 2004 and presumably had a more peaceful domestic life in all of those years.
But it's not as though Tiger has never won without winning big in any given year, and it's not as though he hasn't gone on to win big shortly thereafter. He followed up his fallow period in 2003 and 2004 with two Majors in 2005, two in 2006, one in 2007 and one in 2008.
And, statistically speaking, four tournaments per year constitute too small and intermittent a sample size to judge with any clarity or honesty how well a given golfer (Tiger included) is going at any point in time. Sure, there's plenty to be said for a player surviving the rigors of a difficult course and thriving under pressure.
Is Tiger "back"?
But Major championships, like most tournaments, are often won on luck as much as on skill. Just ask Charl Schwartzel at the Masters, Michael Campbell at the US Open, Ben Curtis at the British Open and Shaun Micheel at the PGA Championship.
The difference? Tougher courses and less forgiving conditions make everyone more mistake-prone, big names and otherwise. Those who are able to weather the storm tend to come out on top.
Just as Tiger did on Thursday. While his playing partners struggled to the tune of a combined 14-over on the day, he entered the clubhouse at one-under.
And if Tiger continues to outplay the likes of Bubba and Lefty, he can't be too far off from being back, now can he?
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