There is great excitement throughout the golf world. Tiger Woods scored the clinching points for the United States in the Presidents Cup for the third straight time.
And Woods went 4-1 in this Presidents Cup after being 5-0 the last two times.
For whatever reason, he’s a much better Presidents Cup player than a Ryder Cup player.
Woods ended the official business of his 2013 season at Muirfield Village, although he’ll play in his own World Challenge, but that falls well short of being officially anything. He’ll play in an exhibition in China at the end of the month and then his event, and that will be it until the Abu Dhabi Championship, to which he’s already committed, Jan. 30-Feb. 2, 2014.
He’ll miss the Waste Management Phoenix Open, but he’s won in Dubai twice and knows there’s a guaranteed appearance fee waiting for him.
After five wins, eight top-10 finishes and $8,553,439 in official money earned this season that included the dominating performance in the Presidents Cup, what does Woods have to do to hit the ground running in 2014?
For starters, he could try to make the cut in Dubai. But beyond that, there are a few things he can do.
1. Get healthy
At the grand old age of 37, soon to be 38, Woods is starting to feel the aches and pains more regularly. His back has bothered him for a few weeks coming down the stretch. It flared up late in his singles match on Sunday, as reported by Rex Hoggard of the Golf Channel.
He downplays the significance of those ailments, but with a history of neck, knee, Achilles' heel and back problems, these are things only aggravated by the passing of time.
2. Get mentally prepared for the chase
What motivates Tiger Woods above everything else is 18, the number of majors Jack Nicklaus won during his career.
Woods is four short of that number and has been since 2008. He sets up his schedule to be ready for the majors and has swung and missed since June of 2008.
The five wins he posted in 2013 prove he still knows how to win, but that somehow has escaped him in the majors.
Is he pressing? I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.
He knows the clock is ticking, and he knows there are more and more players capable of winning majors now. Those factors are making the task feel more and more daunting.
Woods was the absolute mental master for over a dozen years. That’s what seems to be missing now. He has not been able to will himself to good weekend performances since 2008. He will need to find that skill again.
He posted a career-worst finish in a major with a 13-over performance at Merion and then topped that with a 40th-place finish in the PGA Championship, his highest finish ever in the PGA after making the cut.
Those finishes just magnify the problems Woods has had in the events he considers to be of the utmost importance. He’s been in about half the majors since 2008, and that’s a pretty good percentage.
Golf fans watching this chase that has become stuck in a five-year rut appreciate the wins Woods continues to rack up as he inches closer and closer to becoming the all-time winner in professional golf.
But those with a sense of history who are rooting for Woods to make some of his own are disappointed that he hasn’t chipped away at Nicklaus’ lead.
It’s often been said that for pro golfers, the time between the PGA Championship in August and the Masters in early April is excruciatingly long. Woods has been busy playing until this point.
Now is when the real work begins for his 2014 season.