5 Signs That Point to Tiger Woods Winning a Major Championship in 2012
All of a sudden, Tiger Woods is the hottest player on the PGA Tour.
After last week's exciting two-shot victory at the AT&T National, Tiger now has more wins than any other player on tour this year with three. And he's primed for a run at the two remaining major championships—the Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in a couple weeks and the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island in August.
Tiger has battled through several years of turmoil, complete with various forms of mental and physical rehabilitation and a complete overhaul of his golf swing. He has also dealt with an overwhelming amount of critique and incessant negative commentary from naysayers who didn't think he would ever win a golf tournament again.
I won't go so far as to say he is getting the last laugh, but he has to feel good about winning again. His success is silencing most of his critics.
As Tiger has become more comfortable with his new golf swing, his confidence has grown and his mindset will now shift from "regular" tournament victories to majors.
Here are five signs that point to Tiger Woods winning a major championship in 2012.
Tiger Woods has won three of his past seven starts on the PGA Tour—and two of his past three events.
Just three weeks before the year's third major—the Open Championship—begins in Lancashire, England, Tiger won the AT&T National at a major championship caliber track, Congressional Country Club.
Tiger appears to be at the top of his game right now. That's not to say there isn't room for improvement. I could write an entire article about what Tiger isn't doing well as much as what he is succeeding with right now, but he's obviously got enough of the pieces in place to win golf tournaments against the best competition.
I anticipate there will still be moments of inconsistency where people will continue to question whether Tiger is truly "back" or not, but rest assured—he is. And I expect he'll ride that wave of momentum into both of the year's final two majors.
Along with the tremendous momentum surge Tiger is experiencing these days, he has also given his confidence a huge boost with these recent successes.
If you look at his victory at Congressional last week, Tiger wasn't playing his best golf, but he found a way to win. If Tiger knew he wasn't playing his best golf—and believe me, he knew it—and still managed to pull out a victory against some very tough competition, you can imagine what it will do for his confidence.
"Of course the confidence wanes because I wasn't able to practice and I was hurt for a long time," Tiger said in his post-round presser after winning last week. "When you're changing systems and have a totally different release pattern, it's going to take some time. And there are times when, yeah, I revert back, but that's happening less and less—and my ball‑striking is getting better and better."
Tiger still has the ability to be a little bit off his game and win because he is so talented. When one part of his game isn't working, he will pull something from another area of expertise in order to make up the difference. Few players can do that as well as Tiger can. That's why he's one of the best of all time.
During what has been a tumultuous past couple of years, I know Tiger never stopped believing in his abilities as a golfer. He never stopped believing in himself. But his confidence had to be shaken somewhat. Now that he's pulling himself and his game together at the same time, there's no telling how many more tournaments he can win.
And I'm guessing some of those wins will be major championships.
It's been four years since Tiger Woods last won a major championship—at the U.S. Open in 2008—but that doesn't mean he's forgotten how to win one.
When you have 14 majors on your resume, you have an advantage.
If Tiger gets himself into contention on the weekend leaderboard at either the Open Championship or the PGA Championship, expect him to draw from his wealth of pressure-packed knowledge and experience and use it to his advantage.
Of course, not all of Tiger's major wins were nail-biters, but if you put him "in the ring" with anyone that doesn't have that type of major tournament experience, my money is on Tiger Woods.
In fact, my money is on Tiger anyway—especially if he's leading the tournament heading into the final round. All 14 of Tiger's major championship wins happened when he was the Sunday leader.
Tiger's experience is a difference-maker when it matters the most.
The Right Stuff
Take a look at Tiger Woods' performance stats for the 2012 season.
He's first in scoring average at 69.04. And he's in the top 10 in greens in regulation and total driving, which naturally makes him one of the best ball strikers.
He's also improving his putting. Tiger is now No. 14 on the PGA Tour in strokes gained putting and he's 11th in total putting. Statistically, that's a huge improvement over where he was earlier in the season.
So, he's doing a lot of things well. Important things. Those aren't fluff stats.
Whatever swing changes Tiger incorporated with coach Sean Foley—it's finally paying off after close to two years of hard work. It's been a slow but sure process as Tiger has rebuilt both his health and his golf swing from a place where many thought he would never find success again.
His game is peaking just in time for the final two majors of the 2012 season—the Open Championship and the PGA Championship.
Because I Said so
As the 2012 PGA Tour season was beginning back in January, I made the bold prediction that Tiger Woods would win a major championship.
Based on his victory at the Chevron World Challenge and the improvements I was seeing from him at the President's Cup and the Australian Open, it seemed to make sense that he was on his way to bigger and better things—a major victory, of course, being one of those bigger and better things.
I did lean toward the Masters as Tiger's best chance for a return to the major spotlight for the first time in four years, but I felt like his game was suited for any of the courses hosting majors this year—Augusta National, The Olympic Club, Royal Lytham & St. Annes and The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island.
Obviously, the first two options are now out of the picture. Tiger finished T-40 at the Masters and T-21 at the U.S. Open. But, there's still hope for the Open Championship and PGA Championship. And the way Tiger is playing right now, nothing would surprise me.
Translation: he could win one of these or he could win both of them.
But, all signs are pointing toward Tiger winning a major in 2012.