US Open Golf 2012: Tiger Woods Taking Steps Towards Competing Again for a Major
By coming in tied for 21st Sunday at the 2012 US Open Championship, Tiger Woods extended his major championship drought to 12 events and over four years.
Woods hasn't won a major since the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines.
Although Woods struggled down the stretch—shooting a 75 and 73 over the last two days to finish +7—the 14-time major champion continued taking baby steps towards winning his 15th last week in San Francisco.
There's obviously much work left to be done before the drought is snapped. But Woods is considerably closer today to winning that ever elusive 15th major than he was, say, 12 or 18 months ago.
Let's run down some quick things Woods has accomplished in getting closer to winning a major golf event:
His game plan worked, for 36 holes
Woods talked throughout the week about executing a specific game plan, and for two days, he did just that.
Woods hit smart, safe shots that kept most of the pressure off his putter. He routinely went with shorter clubs off the tee, resulting in Woods ranking near the top of fairways and greens through 36 holes.
According to Hank Gola of the New York Daily News, Woods hit just three drivers during the first round—which appeared to be part of his overall plan.
“I had a good game plan going in and I executed all the way through and ended up with a score under par, which was nice," Woods told the Daily News.
It's also worth noting how well Woods played during the first two days compared to his two playing partners, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson: Woods out-shot both by over 10 combined shots.
Woods needs to execute a game plan better over four days, but the way he mastered a tough course at the Olympic Club through 36 holes was encouraging.
Green adjustments killed his weekend
One could argue that Woods would have remained in contention Saturday and Sunday had he adjusted better to the changing speed of the greens.
Whereas his putting had the right speeds for most of Thursday and Friday, Woods simply couldn't adjust to slower greens on the weekend. His scores were reflective of those changes.
His ball-striking was also obviously off, but a few putts here and there during the weekend would have kept Woods in contention. Instead, he limped to a 75 Saturday and then got off to a horrific start Sunday.
Woods' final score of 73 was the end of a frustrating weekend on the greens.
The putting has been better, overall
Woods was putting well during the Memorial Tournament, a week before the US Open. That may be the most encouraging sign for Woods moving forward, especially if he can erase some of the adjustment struggles he had during his weekend in San Francisco.
It's a safe bet that Woods won't win another major event without a strong showing from his putter for four days.
If there's anything Woods can take away from the last two weeks, it's that his work on the greens is still capable of being major championship worthy. He just needs to put it together for an entire event.
The confidence is still a work in progress
Fresh off a near-flawless win at the Memorial, Tiger looked like the same confident, in-control player through two rounds. Some of that swagger appeared to be coming back.
Then the weekend happened.
Whatever confidence Woods appeared to have Thursday and Friday evaporated like the mist coming in off the San Francisco shoreline.
He blew short putts. He botched a chip at 18 that could have put him back into contention. The overall ball-striking lacked the same kind of precision he had displayed through the last six rounds of golf.
It was painfully obvious that the confidence and swagger Woods once had on the golf course is still working its way back into his game.
Maybe it will never come back. Maybe it's on the verge. We've seen enough of both sides to actually wonder aloud either way.
But if Woods can finally get back to his former mental standpoint, there's still plenty of time for the 15th major championship to come.
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