What Tiger Woods Must Do to Improve on Players Championship Failures

Richard LangfordCorrespondent IMay 9, 2013

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL - MAY 08:  Tiger Woods of the USA hits a tee shot during a practice round for THE PLAYERS Championship at THE PLAYERS Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass on May 8, 2013 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

While a few of Tiger Woods' rocky relationships have fallen into the spotlight the last few years, one that has not gotten as much attention is his relationship with TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

While Tiger Woods captured this tournament in 2001, the home of the famous island green has not been kind to him since. Just once since his victory has Tiger finished in the top 10, and he came in 40th here last year. 

The first thing he has to do to reverse his struggles is out of his control. He has to stay healthy. In both 2010 and 2011, Woods was forced to withdraw.

However, there are a few facets that Woods will have more control over. But first, here is Tiger on some of the unique challenges of this tournament. 

*All stats courtesy of PGATour.com unless otherwise noted.

Play Smart off the Tee

While Tiger has been in great form this year, he has been struggling to hit fairways. Woods is hitting just 55.7 percent of them.

And he hasn't hit more than 58 percent of his fairways in any PGA tournament this year. It is hard to see him succeeding on this tight, hazard-laden track if he doesn't improve in that area.

It would be unrealistic for Woods to expect to all of a sudden see a dramatic gain in accuracy off the tee, so he has to manage the golf course and use his driver when it is safe to do so.

Of course, Woods is one of the all-time great course managers, so I wouldn't expect him to do anything less.

At 7,215 yards, this course is not excessively long. Pulling out a fairway wood on the tee on many holes won't doom Tiger.


Bring His Best Approach Game

While Sawgrass offers up a complete test of a player's game, how a player hits into the greens may be the biggest key. There are bunkers and water around the greens, and the greens are not easy to stick. 

Nike Golf tweeted what this course requires with the approach game:

This plays right into Tiger's hands. He gets great loft, and his distance control has been on point this year. 

This is going to be key for him. If he is dialed in with not just his wedges but his medium irons, he will gain more confidence to play it safer off the tee and alleviate some of the concerns caused by his inaccuracy off the tee. 

Of course, as you've probably noticed, it would be wise for everyone to bring their best approach game on this water-lined course. 

Tiger is only 64th in greens in regulation this year. A lot of this can be explained by his issues off the tee. If he wants to contend at Sawgrass, he will have to improve on that. 

Keep Drilling His Putts

Tiger leads the Tour in strokes gained-putting. It has been the foundation for his great start to the year. However, as the Masters progressed, he began to lose his hot hand with the putter. 

He hasn't been in action since, and it will be interesting to see what kind of shape his flat iron is in on his return. 

Unless there is some rain, these greens will be blazing fast. Great putting helped propel Tiger to his lone victory here, which happened to come by one stroke. He definitely made up a stroke with this iconic putt: 

These greens will put a premium on putting, and if Woods is putting like the best putter on Tour, he will at least hang with the leaders no matter how he handles the rest of his game.