Tiger Woods said 2013 was a long season for him.
Another PGA Tour season has come to a conclusion.
Another PGA Tour season has come to a conclusion without Tiger Woods winning a major championship.
Did the world come to an end the day after the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup money-grab concluded?
Nah, we’re still here, the world’s still spinning and Woods continues to be a very wealthy man.
But there is the wailing and gnashing of teeth about the demise of Woods and, as a result, the world as we know it. “Tiger Winless in Majors Again,” “Woods Now 0-since-2008 in Majors,” etc., etc., etc.
And the basic premise is correct. He hasn’t won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open. The dude has, however, won 15 times since then, including five this season.
And that’s cool, but winning PGA Tour events, even World Golf Championship events, isn’t winning majors and that’s what Woods has become synonymous with.
After looking for all the world like little more than an average golfer in the first round at East Lake, Woods said he had run out of gas. His legs were tired and he just didn’t have it.
If Woods is to get back on that track leading to the most major championships of all time, there are some obvious things he needs to work on before the 2014 major season arrives. Like:
1. Learn how to putt again. From 2009, when he was second in strokes-gained-putting average at .874, to 2010, when he dropped to 109th at minus-.033, something terrible happened to one of the best putting strokes in the game.
There was a time when he was darn-near automatic on putts that are not automatic at all for others in his profession. And, for sure, he’s much better now than he was in 2010. He finished 22nd in that stat this year at .424, but if he sits back and reflects on his season, he’ll no doubt be able to come up with several key points in majors where a made putt could have been critical.
Not being able to get the speed of the greens is a most unbecoming excuse from the No. 1 player in the world. But let’s not overlook one aspect of this: He is 37 years old and it was 11 or 12 years ago when he was making everything. Funny things happen to golfers as they get older.
2. Improve short iron control. On approaches from 75-100 yards, Woods ranked 139th with a distance of 18'9". From 50-125 yards, he’s a pedestrian 44th at 17'5". That’s just not good enough, especially when he’s 72nd in putting from 10-15 feet.
Think about it this way: Would you say you saw Woods stuff wedges a couple feet from the cup more than airmailing a green? The answer is probably: No. Precision is the name of the game in major championships and when he was winning 14 of those, he was deadly with his scoring clubs. He needs to rediscover some of that.
3. Get a better understanding of how to play at the top-of-the world level with an aging body. Woods has had trouble with knee, back, Achilles tendon, neck, shoulder and who knows what other kinds of injuries.
He’s still a very athletic specimen on the PGA Tour, but the physical nature of his swing over the years has taken a toll on his body. Perhaps his left knee is the most troublesome because multiple surgeries have been performed on it. If Woods plans to play into his late 40s and beyond, that could become problematic.
But even in the short term, a reconstructed knee is always a concern. As complicated as it might sound, he needs to figure out a way to gear down a little and start protecting his body.
4. Stop messing with the swing and go play golf. He has changed this, he’s changed that, all in the name of being the best he can possibly be and putting himself in a position of being able to compete with the youngsters for years to come.
And now he seems to be settled with the latest renovations, even though this swing seems to be much more mechanical than any of the others. He needs to get back to playing golf, not thinking golf. There’s still that great athlete on the other end of that golf club and he needs to be front and center more often.
5. Tiger Woods could do a lot worse than take several pages from the book that Henrik Stenson wrote the last three months. The man put on a great exhibition of power-and-precision golf and the crowning achievement was how he overpowered East Lake with a 3-wood and some of the best iron play seen in quite a while. Tiger could do the same thing with that 3-wood of his and find himself in a lot less trouble after his tee shots.
Tiger Woods is not finished as a golfer by a long shot. He’s not finished as a major champion, either. But to win another of those, there are definitely some adjustments to be made if that total of 14 is to increase.