Tiger Woods' Health Will Produce Far Better Result at 2013 Players Championship

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIMay 8, 2013

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL - MAY 07:  Tiger Woods of the USA hits a shot during a practise round for THE PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass on May 7, 2013 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Tiger Woods is once again perched atop the Official World Golf Rankings, has won three times on the PGA Tour in 2013 and looks more and more reminiscent of the Tiger of old.

That hasn't necessarily translated to major championship success, but at the oft-dubbed "fifth major," the Players Championship, Woods has especially struggled in recent years. That trend is going to reverse itself this time around, though.

Health is the main reason—mostly, but not exclusively, from a physical standpoint.

When it came to light after Woods' 2008 U.S. Open victory that he was playing through a torn ACL for 10 months, it became clearer that he was battling several physical ailments for years. Unfortunately, the struggles continued.

A neck injury forced him out of the 2010 event and an Achilles flareup and a nagging knee issue caused another withdrawal the following year.

So it makes some sense that inconsistency would occur in those circumstances—it just happened to surface most at TPC Sawgrass.

Some courses don't fit a golfer's eye, and this is one of those venues for Woods. However, he has overcome that before to win a supple amount of tournaments.

A tie for 40th in 2012 came when he was still in the midst of finding his game, too. Still not quite himself after the personal-life scandal he endured, Woods had won at the Bay Hill Invitational's familiar and friendly grounds but was not yet ready to win consistently at that point.

Regardless, since his triumph in the 2001 Players Championship—defined by that famous "Better Than Most" putt on the daunting par-3, 17th hole (see below)—it hasn't happened.

Woods has won just one out of his 15 starts at this venue, but don't count that against him. The past 19 times this event has been put on, it has yielded 19 different champions.

Woods is a special case, as we've all come to know over the years. No matter what the odds are, he almost always overcomes them when he's on top of his game.

Not only has his dominant form surfaced more consistently this season, but his personal life has also stabilized. Before The Masters, Golf Channel's Kelly Tilghman logged a key quote from an unusually candid Woods:

That balance has to be at least somewhat of a reference to his new girlfriend, Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn, who seems to have brought some stability to his personal life.

Take it from Jerry Maguire's Dicky Fox, whose sage advice in this brief clip especially applies to golf:

The killer instinct Woods used to have vanished—his air of invincibility turned to a transparent, terse ordeal of scrutiny from the media, something the intensely private Woods wasn't used to. His focus was elsewhere—and who could blame him?

It's relatively safe to say that this is the most at peace Woods has been both on and off the course in recent years, and it's showing in his brilliant play. The scary thing is that he's putting better than ever, leading the tour in strokes gained-putting and as a result, scoring average and FedEx Cup points.

Betting on Woods at the Players based on his track record seems like an unwise proposition, but if there ever were a time to break through again, this would be it for Woods.

Winning isn't out of the question, and Woods should make a strong bid for the hardware and his 78th PGA Tour victory.


Note: All statistics and information, unless otherwise indicated, are courtesy of PGATour.com.