What goes on your Christmas List when you’re worth $600 million?
There are few things Tiger Woods might ask the other man in red for, beyond a frank sit-down conversation about the temptations of immense celebrity and success. After all, Santa has been a high-profile, international A-lister for considerably longer than Tiger and has managed to keep both his house and his workshop in order.
I hope that, even three years removed, more than anything else, Tiger wants a mulligan on his systematic program of deception and betrayal. Whether Woods is sorry, or simply sorry he got caught, only he knows. Certainly a return to that level of confidence and perceived invincibility would be the greatest gift to his golf game.
Beyond this, here’s a few more items that ought to make it onto the Striped One’s list:
A Return to his Old Sunday Self
Statistically, Tiger had his poorest Final Round Scoring Average (70.4) since his anomalous and injury plagued 2010 season (71.4). Removing 2010 as an outlier, Tiger hadn’t played so poorly over the course of a year on Sunday since 1999, when his Final Round Scoring Average was 71.16.
Paired with Phil Mickelson on Sunday at Pebble Beach, Tiger Woods entered the final round tied for second with victory firmly in his sights. Instead of winning, he carded a 75 and ended up tied for 15th. Mickelson, for his part, looked more like “Sunday Tiger” than the man in the red Nike shirt and carded an eight-under 64 to win, adding insult to injury, for Woods.
Likewise, at the Open Championship, all Tiger had to do on Sunday was shoot two-under par to secure his first major since the 2008 U.S. Open. Instead, Woods faltered early and hobbled home (not literally, thankfully) with a 73.
The enduring image of Tiger’s final round is the golfer contorting himself on the edge of a green-side bunker on the sixth hole, attempting a heroic sand save. Instead of salvaging par, Woods was unable to clear the face of the bunker on his first attempt and made a triple bogey.
The bunker shot was difficult—nearly impossible, really. However, it seems the Sunday Tiger of old would have somehow executed the shot and saved his par. Beyond statistics, this essential substantive difference is what is presently plaguing Tiger during his final tournament rounds.
As much as anything else, Woods wants a return his former Sunday self for Christmas. Granted this, major victories will follow.
Continued Fine Form from Rory McIlroy
On his official blog, Tiger Woods refused to codify a rivalry between he and Rory McIlroy, citing the fact that he and McIlroy are yet to battle down the stretch of significant tournaments. Whatever it is, Rory McIlroy has emerged as a legitimate challenger to Woods for the foreseeable future. Really, the question is whether Woods has enough years of good form left in him to challenge McIlroy, who had the vastly superior 2012 season by all significant measuring sticks.
Jack Nicklaus, for one, believes a rivalry with McIlroy would be good for Tiger. Speaking at the PNC Father-Son Challenge, Nicklaus said, “Tiger probably needs somebody to pop him a few times so he gets a chance to go pop it back...I think that's the way all sports work.” Furthering Nicklaus’ analogy, with a major victory, Player of the Year honors and the world number one ranking, McIlroy has hit Woods with a haymaker.
Even so, Woods has routinely raised his level of play when motivated (9 and 8). Given this, and given the fact that Tiger has already dominated golf with no clear challenger for multiple extended periods of time, Tiger ought to want Rory to continue to play well and for a clear rivalry to emerge between the two.
Another Year of Good Health
Tiger’s aforementioned year-end blog post is titled “A full year of competition.” If the title weren’t enough to identify what Woods sees as the most important aspect of his 2012 campaign, he elaborates in the opening paragraph, “Golf-wise, there's really no comparison between this year and last year. This year, I got a chance to play a full season, compete and win golf tournaments, whereas last year, I was hurt most of the time.”
Certainly, the prerequisite of quality performance (or any performance at all, really) is a baseline of good health. In speculating about the contents of Tiger’s brain and pouring over his annual statistics, it’s important to keep in mind the golfer’s body, specifically, his often-injured and seemingly fragile left leg and knee.
If Tiger’s going to win a major, spar with Rory, or accomplish anything else in 2013, he’ll need to stay healthy. It’s impossible to overstate the obvious, especially as Woods remains committed to grueling workouts and nears 40.
Mr. Woods will certainly be asking Mr. Claus for another “full year of competition.”
...And the Best Thing Santa ever Brought Tiger?
As the golfer himself stated, “The best present I ever received was space Legos.”
Add some of those to the list.