Tiger Woods has a problem, and it's one he is never going to admit in public. But the evidence is there for everyone to see, and it's causing major problems with his golf game.
No, not those kind of majors. He simply does not play his best golf on the weekends any more.
When the money is on the table, the same Tiger Woods that regularly destroyed the field is struggling to find his game.
The latest example came in the Deutsche Bank Championship at the TPC in Boston. Tiger came to Boston a week after his putt on the 72nd hole of The Barclays just missed going in. That would have forced a playoff with winner Adam Scott.
Tiger was the favorite coming into the DBC, and he started in solid fashion by shooting 68 and 67 in the first two rounds. While Tiger was not among the leaders because scores were so low on the soft course, he was close enough that he could have been a solid contender if he had played well on the weekend.
That is something he decidedly did not do, and that's been a problem for the last couple of years.
Woods has won five tournaments this year, so it's not that he completely falls apart. However, he tends to play his worst golf in the biggest tournaments on the weekends.
|Overall Scoring Average (Rank)||69.96||1st|
|Scoring Average Before Cut (Rank)||69.83||1st|
|Third-Round Scoring Average (Rank)||70.83||72nd|
|Final-Round Scoring Average (Rank)||71.33||105th|
The Deutsche Bank Championship was a particularly friendly tournament for the best golfers in the world. Henrik Stenson won the event by getting to 22-under par, while runner-up Steve Stricker made it to 20-under par. Tiger was seven-under through the first two rounds, but while other golfers were tearing it up over the weekend, he was three-over on Saturday and Sunday.
If you look at Tiger's year, he has broken 70 once in the final round of any tournament. That was in The Barclays when he shot a 69.
In the majors, Tiger shot 70 in the third and fourth rounds of the Masters, and he also shot 70 in the final round of the PGA Championship. All of his other weekend rounds were scores of 72 or more.
At its highest level, it's all about consistency. Tiger rarely strings four good rounds together any more.
While he is one of the best putters in the game, his ability to put that part of his game together disappeared over the final two rounds at the DBC.
Tiger prides himself on his ability to read greens and execute his putts. When he is playing well, he makes nearly all his putts of six feet or less and makes more 10-to-12 footers than anyone else.
In the DBC, Tiger needed 31 putts to complete his round on Saturday and 32 putts on Sunday.
Those are significant numbers and go a long way toward explaining his inability to compete in this tournament.
Tiger's power and vicious swing have long been a part of his signature on the golf course. However, when he was dominating the PGA Tour and winning majors, he was driving the ball for accuracy as well as distance.
In the DBC, Tiger found eight of 14 fairways on Saturday and nine of 14 fairways on Sunday. When you are hitting your second shot from the longer grass, you are not going to be able to hit the ball as accurately as you can from the fairway.
As a result of his errant drivers, Tiger had problems hitting greens in regulation. He was just 12-of-18 on Saturday, and that number slipped to 11-of-18 on Sunday.
Because of his lack of accuracy, he was scrambling to make pars, or he was faced with outsized putts for birdies.
Tiger's long slump in the major tournaments is having an impact on his mind-set. Throughout this season, he has tried to minimize his shoddy performances in the majors by saying he wasn't putting well, it wasn't his week and denying that he just had a few bad breaks.
He could be right, but those explanations don't ring true. Tiger's goal throughout his career has been to capture major championships and eventually pass Jack Nicklaus, who has 18. Tiger has been stuck on 14 and has not come close to a 15th title since getting beaten in come-from-behind fashion by Y.E. Yang in the 2009 PGA Championship.
Since that time, it seems Tiger's presence on the course has lost some of its significance. He can still win tournaments when he plays his best golf, but his opponents are no longer intimidated by him.
Early in his career, Tiger seemed to get the best of Phil Mickelson on a regular basis. Before playing together at TPC Boston in 2007, Tiger was 10-4-2 in head-to-head pairings with Mickelson. Since that time, Mickelson has held the advantage.
The pressure of living up to his own high standards seems to come to the fore any time he hits a less-than-perfect shot. He will groan, roll his eyes or shout his own name in disdain for any mistake. While Tiger has always been emotional on the course, it seems his displays are more frequent and more obvious.
That goes against one of the basics of the game: The next shot is the most important.
Once he makes a bad shot, Tiger needs to put it behind him. Wouldn't that be easier to do if he avoided the emotional outbursts?
Woods is struggling in many of his biggest moments, the same ones he used to dominate. He is still the No. 1 rated golfer in the world, but that ranking may disappear if he can't figure out why he has so many issues on the weekends.