Despite Early Struggles, 2010 Should Be a Banner Year for Tiger Woods

Scott McDowellContributor IIApril 30, 2010

CHARLOTTE, NC - APRIL 29:  Tiger Woods reacts to missing a putt on the 3rd green during the first round of the Quail Hollow Championship at Quail Hollow Country Club on April 29, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Written by Brandon Bohning and Hunter McDowell

Many people had negative reactions to Tiger Woods interview following his final round of the Masters, where he articulated that he is never happy unless he wins, and that his performance over the 72 holes was not good enough to get him his record-tying, fifth Green Jacket.

People were upset because after a winter of ire for Mr. Woods, where most of his popularity was either lost or put on ice, you had this man, saying he expected to come off a golfless layoff of more than five months and win at Augusta.

For some reason, it's as if people want a post-scandal Tiger Woods to be less competitive.

I am in the camp that hasn't been pleased with Tiger's on course antics which only started occurring with the fervent consistency after his father passed away.

I'm talking about the audible swearing, using the f-word, along with just about every other curse word popular in the English language today. As much as it's overstated, golf is a gentleman's game and it's one thing to be furious after a bad shot, it's another to throw mini-tantrums each round.

For the most part, Woods did a good job of behaving himself at the Masters, but there were a few times he slipped back into those old habits.

I've come to the conclusion that his living a dual life, caused so much non-golf stress, that when he got out on the course, he would take his stress out on himself and indirectly, the fans who watch and listen to him.

Maybe a dose of reality is still needed. Even Woods isn't going to play a round of golf where he hits every shot flawlessly.

I understand he's a perfectionist. I'm a single-digit handicapper, and on the golf course, I'd like to hit every shot perfect.

However, the difference between Woods and I in this case, is that he no longer approaches the game with any fun.

Even when he holed out for eagle at Augusta on Sunday, he had this reaction of almost relief that something finally good happened. Sure, he smiled and laughed, but when was the last time he chucked a divot at his caddie Steve Williams in humor?

While I think it's expected for the public to demand a certain character change in Woods, I think it may be asking too much to demand he behave like Mother Theresa on the golf course.

I'd like to see him shape up his act, but I think if he continues his practice of Buddhism, he will gradually get back to that calm demeanor he had before his father passed.

Alright, enough with the non-golf Tiger antics that no one thought would have to write about. The man goes out and shoots a two-over par 74 yesterday at Quail Hollow in Charlotte.

As I write this he is nine strokes off the lead, and two strokes from making the cut.

My guess is that he'll have to shoot 69 just to make the cut.

What's the reason for his struggles?

His performance at the Masters needs to be taken with a grain of salt, as narrow as some of those fairways look on TV, they are wider than you think.

That isn't to mention that he hit a lot of fairways (by his standards) in the first two-and a-half rounds. When Woods hits fairways, he's going to be in contention because he's one of the best players statistically from 200 yards and in.

I've followed Tiger's career since 1995, and let me give you the subjective binary (I've constructed) for his success. Most courses on the PGA Tour are pars 70-71-72, with 72 making up over 80 percent of the tournaments.

That means there are typically 14 fairways to hit per round. If Tiger Woods hits 10 of 14 fairways per round his success rate in tournaments borders on the "tough to beat" level.

Even with courses on the PGA tour commonly exceeding 7,200 yards in total distance, an average driving distance somewhere between 290-300 yards means Woods is going to have less than a seven-iron into most greens, obviously. The bigger the number on the club, the more accurate the professional.

Staying with hitting fairways, Woods has done well in his career on par-70 courses. I believe it has a lot to do with the fact that more often than not, there is at least one more par-three on a par-70 course than on a par-72 course, meaning Woods has one less fairway to hit.

Woods is always near the top in "scrambling" a category usually excelled at by the players, like Woods, who have trouble finding the fairway off the tee.

This inherently means that Woods is able to find the green in regulation from somewhere other than the fairway.

The absolute x-factor in determining how Tiger Woods will do in any tournament is on the putting surface.

While people love his 330-yard drives, and his beautiful iron play, what sometimes doesn't get as much attention from the fan perspective is Woods use of the flat blade.

If he's putting well, he is almost impossible to beat. The only time we've seen him lose when putting well was when Y.E. Yang beat him last year. Even then, Woods' putter deserted him in the final round.

Due to the fact that Woods is good at finding greens off of the fairway, if his putter is remotely working, he's going to shoot four or five under.

We've seen that when he has everything clicking ('97 Masters, '99 PGA, '00 Open, '00 British, among dozens of other tournaments) he is impossible to beat. If the man hits 14 or more greens in regulation and is putting well, the rest of the field should consider withdrawing.

So why, in spite of the struggles he's currently having, and those I predict will continue throughout the next month, do I say 2010 will be a banner year?

Woods is good at one other thing. Throughout his career there have been venues that have been tailor-made to suit his game. Augusta, Pebble Beach, Torrey Pines, Bay Hill, Hazeltine, Bethpage Black, and on down the list fit the bill.

The 2010 US Open will be played where this year? Pebble Beach. You know, the same US Open venue where Tiger Woods lapped the field in 2000?

If you don't remember, Woods fired an opening round 65 to take the first round lead. He didn't look back. The second round, a day when everyone in contention seemed to be firing scores of even par or worse, Woods shot 69, and by days end, his lead was six shots. When it came time to end the festivities on Sunday, Tiger Woods sat at -12. His nearest competitor was 15 strokes behind him, at +3 for the tournament.

I won't go so far to guarantee Woods his fourth US Open title, mainly because his game will need serious fine tuning between now and then, but he has to be the preemptive favorite because of his performance in 2000.

The course is going to be just like every other US Open Course for the past eight years, long from tee-to-green, the rough will be 4.5-6 inches high in the primary cut-making it almost impossible to advance the ball and the greens will be running between a 13-15 on the stemp meter.

For my money, the only other golfer that has a chance to compete with Woods is Phil Mickelson and maybe one or two others who can stay hot with the putter for 72 holes.

The 2010 Open Championship, otherwise known as the British Open in America, will be played at St. Andrews as the Open Championship cycles through venues each year.

It was one champion, Woods. If there's a course you could consider "owned" by Woods, it's this one.

Why? Well as I explained in the Tiger Woods binary for success, Tiger can scramble and make putts to win tournaments.

St. Andrews is the perfect course for Woods to get an edge on his fellow competitors. He can hit the ball practically anywhere in-bounds off the tee and still make birdie or better. Due to the type of soil in the area around St. Andrews, the rough never grows to lengths where advancing and spinning the ball is difficult for the professionals.

Woods could theoretically hit eight fairways in any one of the four rounds this year and still shoot 65. The greens are large, but very few pin placements come with any extreme difficulty.

If he can put his approach shot in a general area around specific pins, Woods will have mostly straight putts, and there aren't many players better at making 30-foot straight putts than him.

Unlike the US Open this year, I am guaranteeing a victory for Woods in this year's British Open.

The reason is simple. Tiger looks like a God among mortals when he steps foot onto St. Andrews Old Course. In 2000, the second place finisher played well enough to finish -11, a great accomplishment had Woods not finished -19.

In 2005, Woods finished five strokes ahead of his nearest competitor after playing conservative in the weekend rounds.

Barring an injury, Woods should have a banner year in 2010. With two of the majors being played at "his" courses, he's got a great chance to get bring his tally to 16 majors, just two away from tying Jack Nicklaus' record.

If he does that, he'll be handed Player of the Year honors in July. He's got no chance at the PGA Championship this year, as it returns to Whistling Straights in Kohler, WI, a place where he barely made the cut in 2004. 

It is also a Ryder Cup year, and Woods struggles in that event are legendary. I would venture to guess that if he has success in both, the US and British Open, his priority will be a consistent contributor to the Ryder Cup team in September.

Of course only time will tell if my predictions come true, but on paper, 2010 looks like a year where Tiger can once against assert his dominance over the PGA Tour.