We will not see Tiger Woods in a golf tournament until he plays in Abu Dhabi on the European Tour January 17-20, 2013.
He finished the 2012 season last week at his World Challenge by posting nine-under par and trailing the winner Graeme McDowell by eight shots. His four rounds of 70-69-69-71 were good for T-4 even though his game was not sharp.
He was particularly adept at knocking short chip shots close to the pins on Sherwood Country Club. That was an area of his game that definitely needed improvement and had prevented him from carding lower scores this year.
What grades should Tiger receive on his 2012 performance?
In 2011 Tiger’s driving distance was 294 yards and he ranked No. 71 on the PGA Tour. He improved this number to 297 yards and No. 32 on tour in 2012. In addition his driving accuracy improved from No. 186 (49 percent) in 2011 to No. 55 (64 percent) this year.
We saw Tiger hitting more fairways and at times reaching out to keep up with Bubba and Dustin Johnson when necessary.
Because of this drastic improvement we have to give him an A-plus on the driver for 2012.
One of the strengths of Tiger’s game has been his ability to find the green from wherever he may have driven his golf ball. His greens-in-regulation stats basically are unchanged from 2011. He hit 67.7 percent of greens-in-regulation last year which ranked him No. 37 on tour and he hit 67.5 percent this year which was good for No. 25 in the rankings.
Because Tiger has always been near the top of this stat he rates a solid A.
Tiger has never been extremely adept at extricating himself from bunkers. In 2011 he only made 19 of 50 sand saves. That is 38 percent and he ranked No. 175 on tour. In 2012 he made 49 saves out of 100 bunkers. That is an improvement to No. 83 but still nothing to write home about.
Tiger earns a C-plus for his sand play.
Tiger was not at his best from 150 yards and in this year. His control with his short irons was not nearly up to his normal standards. Even when he was an amateur it seemed that he could get up and down from anywhere. The swing changes that Sean Foley made affected his short game. Tiger’s performance with his wedges at the World Challenge was much more on par with what we have come to expect over the years.
Give Tiger a C for his wedge play for 2012.
That brings us to putting. There are many different stats that can be discussed in the putting game. The one that has the most meaning and sums up Tiger’s putting year is the strokes-gained-putting statistic.
In 2011 Tiger’s strokes-gained-putting stat was .258 which ranked him No. 45 on tour. In 2012 he improved to .332 which ranked him No. 35 in that category. That is a significant jump in one year.
If we go all the way back to 2008 when Tiger won his last major, his strokes-gained-putting stat was .844 and he ranked third on tour. As you can see he still has some work to do to get back to the lofty peaks that he once enjoyed earlier in his career.
Bottom line is Tiger has earned a B-plus for his putting efforts in 2012, but he still has room for improvement.
Tiger played in 19 events in 2012. He made 17 cuts, had nine top-ten finishes including two thirds, one runner-up and his three wins.
He finished second to Rory McIlroy in the FedEx Cup and won over $6 million. The only thing missing this year was a major championship.
Which brings up a subject of concern, his performance on the weekends at the major championships in 2012 was very un-Tigerlike.
Tiger was never a factor at the Masters. He did not break par once over the four rounds and finished T-40 over a course that he could play blindfolded and shoot 68. His game and mind were clearly not ready for the stress of a major.
At the U.S. Open at Olympic Club Tiger fired 69-70 over the first two rounds and led after 36 holes. His erratic short game was exposed on Saturday and Sunday. He shot 75-73 and finished T-21.
Tiger was in contention right up to the end at Royal Lytham in the Open Championship. A triple-bogey seven on the 16th hole on Sunday ended his chances of collecting major No. 15. He finished T-3.
Tiger again put together two solid rounds at Kiawah Island in the PGA Championship but a third round 74 took him out of contention and he finished T-11 after posting a 72 on Sunday.
Tiger did not break par on the weekend at any of the four major tournaments in 2012.
Tiger won three PGA Tour events in 2012. His all-around game improved dramatically and he was a factor in nearly every event that he entered.
He began the year just inside No. 50 on the Official World Golf Ranking and ended the year at No. 3.
Tiger will not be satisfied since he did not win a major but for any mere mortal professional golfer it was a very good year.
Tiger earns an A for the year. If he can improve his putting and his short game just slightly next year he will undoubtedly be seen holding major hardware in 2013.