Tiger Woods: What Will a 'Comeback' Look Like?

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistFebruary 9, 2012

PEBBLE BEACH, CA - FEBRUARY 09:  Tiger Woods hits his tee shot on the first hole during the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am at the Spyglass Hill Golf on February 9, 2012 in Pebble Beach, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Tiger Woods is in the midst of the biggest slump of his career.  There is no question about that.

Woods’ last win at a full-fielded PGA Tour event came more than two years ago at the 2009 BMW Championship.

Woods has not won a major since his one-legged victory at the 2008 U.S. Open. 

And although Woods has missed several majors over the past few years due to injuries, he has now gone winless in the last 10 majors he has attended, which ties his longest winless streak ever at the only four events in golf that really matter.

That being said, as Woods attempts to make a comeback in 2012, we need to get a better grip on reality in terms of what life was really like for Woods and professional golf prior to that ugly fire-hydrant incident back on November 27, 2009.

Did Woods dominate the game from 1997-2009?

Absolutely.  Perhaps more so than any other player in the history of the game.  

But did Woods win every tournament he attended prior to 2010?

Absolutely not.

Perhaps it’s a combination of so many triumphant moments by Woods over such a short period of time or the fact that in recent years the “best players in the world” simply don’t win very often, but people seem to be under the illusion that Woods used to win every single time he teed it up earlier in his career, which was just not the case.  

Woods career winning percentage at PGA Tour events through the 2009 season was 28.33 percent, which is a truly incredible feat.

Just to put that into perspective, here is a list of the next best career winning percentages in the history of golf:

Ben Hogan: 20.70%

Byron Nelson: 17.8%

Sam Snead: 14.9%

Jack Nicklaus: 12.2%

Although the winning percentage statistics for Hogan, Nelson, Snead and Nicklaus are for their entire careers whereas Woods’ 28.33 winning percentage only spans his first 13 years on tour, this demonstrates just how dominant Woods was between 1997 and 2009.

That being said, a career winning percentage of 28.33 also means that Woods would, on average, win less than three out of every ten PGA Tour events he attended during the first 13 years of his career.

So, as Woods attempts to regain his dominant form this season, the best he can probably hope for is to win 2-3 out of every 10 events he attends. If he plays a full schedule of 20 events this season, 4-5 wins would mean that he’s right back to where he was during his dominant days on tour. 

So, for all of you out there who constantly ask, “What’s wrong with Tiger?” every time the guy tees it up and doesn’t walk away with a trophy and a $1.3 million dollar check, the answer might very well be, “nothing.”

Woods does not, has not and will never win every event he plays in.  

Even in 2000, a year many consider to be the pinnacle of Woods’ career, he won nine out of 23 PGA Tour events. That is an incredible 39.13 winning percentage.  However, that also means that Woods came up short in at least six out of every 10 events he attended in 2000.

Woods may very well come back and dominate professional golf in the coming years.  But, let’s be clear on what the word “dominate” means in professional golf.

Dominate does not mean that Woods goes out and wins every event by six strokes.

Dominate does not mean that there is a problem every time Woods does not win an event.

Dominate simply means that Woods may go out and win three out of every 10 events he plays in 2012 and beyond.

And if he does that, well, he’ll wind up going down in history as the most dominant player to have ever picked up a golf club.

For more golf news, insight and analysis, check out The Tour Report.


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