5 Reasons Tiger Woods Is Not Back Despite Strong Australian Open
Tiger Woods put together his strongest finish since the Masters at the Australian Open. He finished in third place, two strokes behind winner Greg Chalmers. He shot three rounds in the 60's and had the 36 hole lead. He had a serious chance at winning the tournament on his final nine holes.
While it certainly marks an improvement from his recent performances, it in no way shows that Tiger is back to his former self. For starters, any sort of comparison to a prime Tiger Woods should not come in a performance that wasn't a win. The guy has won 92 professional tournaments.
The course and field were weak by PGA Tour standards. Woods again failed to put together four solid rounds. He made a number of unforced errors at critical moments. He also seemed to struggle when he got the lead, something we never saw from Tiger Woods in the past.
The Weak Tournament Field
The Australian Open attracted some big name talent being played the week before the Presidents Cup. However in general, the Tournament was very weak compared to what you would see in a PGA Tour event. The Australian Open is not a PGA Tour event and features many Australian natives, who realistically do not have a shot to win.
Greg Norman made the cut, despite being nearly 57 years old and coming off shoulder surgery. Fred Couples finished in the top 20 and his co-captain John Cook also made the cup. Three non-playing Presidents Cup Captains, who are senior tour players, competed well in the event. That tells you what you need to know about the strength of the field.
The Lakes Golf Club in Sydney proved to be a challenge. Undulating complex greens and wind gave the players fits all week. However, what the course did not do was force players to use driver with any sort of regularity.
With the course playing under 7,000 yards, Woods rarely used driver. He was content to hit irons and tailor the holes to benefit his strong approach shots from 150-200 yards. In round four, when he took out the driver, Woods got into serious trouble.
Driver accuracy was never his strength, but he needs to be able to hit it better than he showed Sunday. Most courses will force his hand more often and he needs to be able to get the driver in play.
Unable to Play Four Solid Rounds
One of the biggest weaknesses shown by Woods has been inconsistent rounds in tournament play. In the Masters, he played two very good rounds along with two poor efforts. He has been unable to really show a consistent effort.
That trend continued at the Australian Open. He had three good rounds, but inexplicably fired a third round 75. An even par effort on Saturday would have won him the tournament. While the three good rounds were encouraging, he still has been unable to put together a consistent 72 holes in quite some time.
I am stealing tennis terminology, but it really does describe Tigers propensity to make a mess out of straight forward holes.
There are always a few holes on a course where bogey is a very real possibility. Tiger seems to be making bogeys on holes that he has no business doing so.
For example, on Sunday he bogeyed the 11th hole par-5 and the very short par-4 13th. Both of these came as a result of very aggressive shots off the tee. He was trying to make eagle when a birdie is easily in reach. The bogeys on those holes cost him two shots he had no reason to lose.
Lacking the Killer Instinct
The Saturday 75 and the two bogeys on the final nine holes demonstrated that Tiger does not close out tournaments like he used to. He was the greatest front-runner in golf history, once he got the lead, it was over.
The three consecutive bogeys to start off the third round were particularly disturbing. It was the opposite of the Tiger Woods we came to know over the years. At Chevron last year and the Masters, he has made mistakes when he got in a position to win. Obviously he wasn't going to remain a perfect player when he was in contention, because that is just not realistic. However, this shaky play while in contention is starting to become.
The truth is that we did not learn much about Tiger Woods at the Australian Open. He's not back yet, but in no way am I saying he's finished. Any sort of realistic prediction for what his future is has to wait until next year. For the time being, he got the critics of his back about the President's Cup selection.