Professionally speaking, it’s tough to root for Tiger Woods.
He has won 14 major championships, and continually stares down opponents to his elusive crown week in, week out on the PGA Tour. But this year has been anything but spectacular.
This summer, we waited for Woods to have his signature high-profile win…and waited…and waited, but it never came. His low point came at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, as Tiger had his highest score for a tournament and finished 79th out of an 80-man field. Rory McIlroy even joked that he would love to face the supposed “World’s No. 1 player” in match play unless of course he rapidly improves his game.
Tiger doesn’t want your pity. But be careful what you wish for, as Woods is taking on the biggest challenge of his 14-year career: overhauling his swing. Gone is Hank Haney, and in comes new swing coach Sean Foley. And right now, Tiger’s lone goal is to secure a tournament victory early next season to regain his confidence.
Foley challenges his pupils and will never become a yes-man in order to keep a client. His candor is exactly what the doctor ordered to revive Woods’ game. Foley’s two immediate goals are to stop Tiger from moving his head laterally on his backswing and force him to keep his arms closer to his body to prevent them from dropping on his follow-through.
Tiger has abandoned the game plan of relying on his short game and clutch putting to get him out of trouble from an errant tee shot. Foley is encouraging Woods to use the fairway to his advantage, and the numbers have improved.
Under his tutelage, Tiger had six rounds in the 60s during the FedEx Cup playoffs, which equaled the total number of rounds in the 60s that Woods had in eight PGA tournament appearances. But more importantly, Woods hit nine of 14 fairways, 13 greens and only took 27 putts in those six rounds. It’s difficult to win on the Tour while making significant changes to your game, but the reality is Tiger 2.0: The Return of a Champion is under construction.
If you think Woods isn’t closer to getting back on track to his goal of breaking Jack Nicklaus' career record of 18 major championship victories then you’re kidding yourself. Don’t ever discount his ability to play under pressure, because Tiger can and has performed well under the spotlight.
Woods seems more relaxed on the course and has come to the realization that his game cannot get poorer than his performance at Firestone. In the long run, the Tour needs for him to find his game just as much as he does, as both can benefit from his future successes.