Tiger Woods: 3 Things We Learned About Tiger at the 2012 US Open
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After a couple days to ponder exactly what happened to Tiger Woods over the weekend at the 2012 US Open, I'm still struggling to get a handle on the moment.
It looked like Tiger's tournament to do with as he pleased after opening rounds of 69 and 70 found him very comfortably tied for the lead at one-under par. He was hitting a lot of fairways and greens—not exactly like the "old" Tiger, mind you, but certainly well enough to win if he kept it going. His scores were solid, especially for a US Open. But they weren't entirely reflective of how good he was playing and the control he seemed to have with his golf swing. He could've had a three or four shot lead.
Nevertheless, it felt like the good old days. Tiger Woods was leading a major championship heading into the final 36 holes of play. For the gen pop, it was exciting. It was interesting.
Then, what many considered to be the unthinkable happened—except that it really wasn't that big of a surprise at all.
The inconsistent play that has plagued Tiger throughout the 2012 season returned. Two good days and two bad days do not a successful major championship make. And Tiger limped home with closing rounds of 75 and 73 to finish T-21, a far cry from the lofty expectations he had created after winning the Memorial Tournament just two weeks prior.
Is this a behavior we need to get used to? Will we ever really know which Tiger Woods will show up on any given day?
Here are three things we learned about Tiger Woods at the 2012 US Open.
Tiger 2.0, Deal with It
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Is Tiger Woods back? We've been hearing this question for a while now and it has more than worn out its welcome.
Tiger Woods circa 2012 is doing a lot of things well. He's already won two tournaments—the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Memorial. And he's leading the PGA Tour in total driving and scoring average. Plus, he has top five placements in several other statistical categories.
Tiger Woods is playing some good golf.
During the first two rounds of the US Open, Tiger's ball striking was outstanding, especially considering the degree of difficulty the Lake course at the Olympic Club offered. He hit 21-of-28 fairways and 25-of-36 greens in regulation.
Then, for whatever reason, Tiger lost what had been working for him. Thus, he also lost his grip on the lead.
Admittedly, he wasn't that far off, but when you're missing fairways and greens the way Tiger was on Saturday and Sunday (12-of-28 fairways and 20-of-36 greens), you suffer the consequences, which, in his case, was a seven-over par finish.
For two days, Tiger played well enough to win. But his final tally was a reality check. Sometimes he plays well for four rounds, other times he doesn't. Sometimes he appears to be capable of greatness, other times he just looks ordinary. This is who Tiger Woods is right now. This is Tiger 2.0. Deal with it.
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For the many things Tiger did well at the US Open, one glaring statistic to contribute to his demise was his poor play from the green side bunkers. He was a miserable 2-of-11 (18 percent) in sand saves. If he gets up and down on a few more of those, he's right in the hunt.
As it turned out, Tiger finished six shots behind the eventual winner, Webb Simpson, partly because he couldn't connect more often from the sand.
This is an ongoing problem. During the PGA Tour's regular season, Tiger is 98th overall in sand saves—only getting up and down about half the time.
I don't watch Tiger practice so I don't know how much time he spends on his play from the sand, but it would certainly appear he needs more work on that part of his game.
Of course, it's probable that he is spending so much time on his full swing—and the mechanics that accompany his full swing—that there simply isn't any time left. After all, there are only so many hours in a day. But if he wants to improve an obvious weakness in his golf game, quickly, and lower his scores, this would be a good place to start.
Keep on Keeping on
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Despite a roller coaster 2012 season—from the aforementioned victories, in impressive fashion, to a missed cut and everything in between—Tiger Woods is maintaining a very positive outlook on his game.
After what had to be an incredibly disappointing and frustrating weekend at the US Open, Tiger walked away from the Olympic Club with a smile and some good vibes:
"I was just a touch off," Tiger said after his final round. "And that's fine. I was still in the ballgame. Today I got off to a bad start and never got it going early and unfortunately put myself out of it … As I said yesterday it was amazing how many times I got just a half club, right between clubs all day. And also yesterday I had trouble with the speed. Today I felt great on the greens. Unfortunately I got off to a bad start … A lot of positives to be taken away from this week. A lot of positives."
I have to give Tiger credit for his cheerful frame of mind. And I have to agree with him. He's not in denial. He really is close. Which isn't good enough for his critics. Nor is it good enough for Tiger. But he's going to keep his head up until he does win that next major. Which will happen—probably sooner than later.