Woods hit many fairways at Greenbriar
OK, it’s a stupid theory, but the way the year has gone for Tiger Woods, it makes as much sense as anything else.
Woods has had three victories, two missed cuts, and a WD; erratic play for a guy who up to now has been a cut-making machine. Granted he has a 25 percent winning percentage for this year, but he spoiled us for 15 years with those 74 titles and a habit of being on leaderboards if not in the victory circle.
But the pattern is odd.
Winning a PGA Tour event, then finishing 40th at The Masters two weeks later. Winning at Memorial, then finishing 21st at the U.S. Open. Winning at the AT&T National, then missing a cut at Greenbrier.
Since that is his pattern, winning, dipping into the 20s or 40s and then winning again, maybe the next time he tees it up—at the British Open—will be his "bounce back" week.
It makes as much sense as anything else in a season where Woods has caused much head-scratching. He’s won more tournaments than anyone else in 2012, but in between, he has looked average, something that Woods had not done in the past. Tiger Woods and average have not belonged in the same sentence.
Pre-tournament at Greenbrier, he was upbeat after his victory in DC. He got a putting tip from Notah Begay, former Stanford golf team member and PGA Tour player, and said it helped him win.
Notah's known me since I was 11 years old,” Woods explained. “He knows my game inside and out, and just talking to him and picking his brain about what he thought about a few things. He made me think back to some of my things I used to think about in college, how I told him how to putt. He said, you might want to go back to that, so I did.
At Greenbrier, Woods was not that far off. In the second round, he only missed two fairways, and those were by a slim margin—all to the left. A third fairway, the 16th, he hit through a severe dogleg into the rough. It was a case of too far, not wide right or left.
The first round, he had one ball in the water—the 17th—and doubled the hole. On the seventh, he hit into a fairway bunker. The rest of his non-fairway balls were close to the fairway.
He just wasn’t “on.”
He attributed his first round play to adjusting to the greens.
“Definitely struggled with my green speeds,” he said. “The last three tournaments were awfully quick.”
The last time Woods played this year’s Open Championship venue—Royal Lytham and St. Annes—was in 2001, when David Duval won the Open Championship. Duval elevated himself to No. 1 in the world and then plummeted with injury problems.
In 2001, Woods finished nine shots back, tied for 25th. He had 13 birdies for the week, nine bogeys, a double and a triple. Most of the birdies were on the front nine, and most of the bogeys were on the back. His best holes were the first, fourth and sixth. His worst were the 14th and 15th.
In 1996, at Royal Lytham, it was Tom Lehman who won. He had narrowly missed winning the U.S. Open that same year at Oakland Hills, which, like Oakmont, is so hard it’s enough to just plain make you give up the game.
Before that at Royal Lytham, it was Seve Ballesteros, over Nick Price in 1988 and Ballesteros winning his first Open Championship in 1979 by a three-shot margin over Jack Nicklaus and Ben Crenshaw.
Woods may win another two, three or four times this season, but it’s impossible to tell where because we don’t know which Tiger Woods will tee it up. At the Open Championship, if he’s still in a dip, he may wait until Firestone for his next victory. He has already won there seven times.
If nothing else, Woods’ performance has become unpredictable, which makes watching him play all the more exciting.
Kathy Bissell is a Golf Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand or from official interview materials from the USGA, PGA Tour or PGA of America.