Golf: How Tiger Woods Can Once Again Strike Fear into His Competition

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistOctober 31, 2012

ZHENGZHOU, CHINA - OCTOBER 29: Tiger Woods of USA in action during the Duel of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy at Jinsha Lake Golf Club on October 29, 2012 in Zhengzhou, China.  (Photo by Hong Wu/Getty Images)
Hong Wu/Getty Images

Tiger Woods is not that far away from being the dominant golfer he was for the first 12 years of his career.

But he's not there yet.

During the 2012 PGA golf season, Tiger Woods did many of the things on the golf course that his fans, as well as his competitors, expect him to do on a regular basis.

A quick look at the end-of-season PGA statistics shows that Woods was at or near the top in a number of the key categories.

Start off with money won. Woods finished second to rival and top-ranked Rory McIlroy in money earned and scoring average last year. Woods was also second to McIlroy in overall world ranking. Woods won three tournaments last year, second to McIlroy's four victories.

Woods was No. 1 in the regular-season FedEx Cup standings, and he was tied for second in top-10 finishes with nine for the year.

There's little doubt that Woods reached many of the requirements needed to show he is one of the elite golfers in the world.

But, while all of those numbers and achievements are good, they are not enough. When your goal is to be the No. 1 golfer in the world and you want to run down Jack Nicklaus for most major championships, regular-season accomplishments that would make most golfers jump for joy mean little.

Woods, of course, has to start winning major tournaments once again before he can strike fear into his opponents.

He would appear to have quite a few more steps to take. He has not won a major since claiming victory in the 2008 U.S. Open. That was the 14th major victory of his career.

He has not been close to winning a major in a long time.

While he regularly got off to good starts in the major tournaments this year and put himself in contention through the first two rounds, he was unable to move up the ladder on moving day.

Instead of advancing to a contending position, Woods went backwards in the third round of the U.S. Open, British Open and the PGA.

Then, when it came to playing on Sunday, Woods was just another guy.

Instead of being the dominant player in red, he was just another golfer who was unhappy with his performance when major championships are decided.

It's clear that there is something in his mental approach that needs to change. He demonstrated during the regular season how well he can play over 72 holes, but he was unable to sustain his success on the biggest stages.

There are a few specific areas that Woods may be able to improve. Woods will want to address his driving accuracy. He hit the fairway or green on 63.93 percent of his drives, and that ranked an ordinary 53rd on the tour.

He also struggled with his fairway bunker play. When he found himself in the fairway hazards, he was able to hit greens in regulation 46.9 percent of the time. That ranked 119th on the tour.

The other area that Woods may want to address is his par-5 play. For many years, this was his strength because of his ability to hit the ball for distance and his shot-making skills. He was minus-92 for the year on par-5 holes—a solid figure—but that ranked 38th on the tour.

He has the potential to be a top-10 golfer in that category.

Primarily, it's his third and fourth-round scoring numbers that kept Woods from reclaiming his glory. Woods has been the kind of golfer who has excelled in those situations. Now, he understands how the rest of the golf world feels.

He's going to have to slay that dragon early in the season or he could face another year without any majors because the pressure on him will only grow more intense.