Tiger Woods at PGA Championship 2013: Complete Performance Grades at Oak Hill
The old horse racing expression often applies in golf as well.
"There are horses for courses and courses for horses."
Sometimes a horse can feel great at one racetrack and run his best race there, but he may struggle at a different track even if nothing in his pre-race routine has changed.
It's certainly true in golf, and Tiger Woods is one of the greatest examples. He won in stellar fashion last week at the Bridgestone Invitational. But moving from Firestone Country Club in Ohio to Oak Hill Country Club in New York showed that Tiger was simply not able to translate his skill from one classic course to the next.
Tiger was never able to contend for the PGA Championship, and he did not break par in any of his four rounds. That means he has failed to accomplish that feat in any of the eight PGA Championship rounds he has played at Oak Hill.
Tiger Woods is one of the best ball strikers in the game's history, and he came into the PGA Championship hitting the ball extremely well.
However, Tiger's execution off the tee suffered throughout the week. Whether he was using his driver or any of his other clubs off the tee, he could not manage any kind of consistency.
In the final round of the season's last major, Tiger found the fairway on just four of his 14 tee shots. He was especially frustrated when it came to his driver. He failed to find the short grass with any of his five tee shots with his driver. For the weekend, Tiger failed to hit the fairway with his driver on nine attempts.
After struggling with his tee shots in the opening round, Tiger never looked confident with his opening shots from that point forward. While he still gets excellent distance, Tiger's lack of accuracy off the tee was a problem all week and has been a problem in all recent majors.
Statistically, Tiger Woods' iron play was the best part of his game during his disappointing PGA Championship.
In Sunday's final round, Tiger hit 12-of-18 greens in regulation. That's a respectable figure, but it does not tell the full story. Since his tee shots were so inconsistent, he was not in a position to hit his second shots on the par-four holes stiff to the pin because he was often hitting from difficult positions and inconsistent lies.
So getting the ball on the green and putting it within 10-to-15 feet are two different things. Woods' iron play at the Bridgestone Invitational was sensational; it was just decent at the PGA Championship.
"I didn't hit it well enough," Woods said to Golf Digest.
Tiger never had anything close to a confident look on his face when he hit his irons. When he was playing the Bridgestone Invitational, it looked like Woods would have welcomed a challenge from anyone because he was hitting his irons so well. That confident swing disappeared at Oak Hill.
Tiger's final-round putting was a bit of an anomaly. While he struggled with his putter through the first three rounds, Tiger putted the ball quite well over the back nine on Sunday.
He completed his round with 30 putts, a marked improvement over the 35 putts he had on Saturday. He completed his last seven holes with just seven putts.
That's championship-style golf—when a golfer can do that consistently over four rounds. Throughout the first three rounds, Tiger's putting was shockingly poor. He explained that he had been blocking all his putts to the right, and that's why he couldn't do anything but fall further back on the leaderboard.
"I didn't make any putts until the last few holes today," Woods said after his final round, via Golf Channel. "I had nine birdies through 72 holes. That's not enough birdies."
Tiger was never able to master Oak Hill. This classic course requires precision and power, and Tiger was never able to manage the precision portion of the game.
He simply did not put the ball in the fairway off the tee often enough, and that meant he was forced to scramble throughout his four rounds at Oak Hill. He was unable to take advantage of the birdie opportunities that were there for so many of his competitors throughout the tournament.
Tiger was fighting from behind at Oak Hill, and that seemed to keep him from attacking the course with the creative shots that he's used to executing.
He also seemed to hurt his back after taking a swing from the rough on 13, but he did say after the round that he did not think it would be a major issue.
RT @JasonSobelGC Asked if his back would be a longterm issue, Tiger Woods laughed, shook his head and offered a one-word response: "No."— GC Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) August 11, 2013
There's no getting around it at this point. Tiger is not able to perform in major tournaments the way he once did. He came into the PGA playing sensationally, having dominated the Bridgestone Invitational as he won by seven strokes.
The "old Tiger" would have used that as a jumping-off point and gotten off to a hot start and at least would have been a contender in the big event he was about to play. Instead, Tiger had none of that momentum and simply seemed like a sad and frustrated golfer for four days.
When Tiger is on his game, it seems like a rally is almost inevitable. But that has not been the case since winning his last major in 2008. Now, it seems like it's just a matter of time before he falls by the wayside in any of the majors that he so desperately wants to win.
That's what happened in the PGA Championship, and Tiger was never able to turn things around.
Technically, Tiger had quite a few problems at the PGA Championship. He could not hit the ball straight off the tee, his iron shots did not have their usual crispness, and his putting was ordinary.
However, the big problem was the crushing weight of expectations. It may not be the expectations of others, but his own expectations and desires to pass Jack Nicklaus appears to be playing havoc with him at this point.
How can it be anything else? Tiger was at the top of his game a week ago, and he looked completely lost at Oak Hill.
Tiger will have a chance to add to his total of 14 major championships next April at Augusta, but it seems that something dramatic will have to happen if he is going to escape his major malaise.