15 June 2019

Awaiting Another Roar

Despite his thrilling Masters victory last month, Tiger Woods’ poor performance at the PGA Championship dispelled the hope of many golf fans that he was back with his former ferocity. Now, the golf world waits to see if he can claim another victory at the final two majors of the year.

There were many shouts on Bethpage State Park’s Black Course. Most spectators expressed their disappointment over Tiger’s failure to escape the cut at the 2019 PGA Championship, while some still gave applause as a sign of appreciation for his efforts.

It was the first time Tiger missed a cut since last year's US Open at Shinnecock, and the first time in his career that he missed a cut in a major following a major victory. “It's just the way it goes," Woods said to reporters after his round. "You know, I just don't feel well and just was not able to do it. But resting would be better so I would have the energy to play. You know, unfortunately, I just didn’t — made too many mistakes and just didn't do the little things I need to do. Did a lot of little things wrong."

It was a stark contrast to the euphoric celebrations just a month earlier when Tiger won the Masters for the fifth time. The 43-year-old made what will surely be remembered in history as one of golf’s greatest comebacks, erasing a two-shot deficit to clinch his fifth green jacket and 15th major title nearly a decade after his last major win.

It was 2008 that marked the end of an era for golf’s most dominant figure. With a very public fall from grace due to a high-profile sex scandal, subsequent divorce, and multiple injuries, Tiger struggled to get back on track. As the years went on, doubts arose as to whether he would ever play again to the level he once had. 

At Augusta, Tiger finally did what many thought he would never do again, but what even more hoped he would. “It’s overwhelming because of what has transpired,” Woods said, as quoted by Bloomberg. “It’s unreal for me to be experiencing this. I’m kind of at a loss for words really.”

With large galleries following his progress around the fairways and greens of Augusta National Golf Club, Tiger showed fans the Tiger they used to know and love, one that was grinding with a steely focus. Come the PGA Championship, that Tiger was gone again. 

Tiger looked off from the very first hole of Bethpage State Park’s Black Course. Drives missed the fairway. Wedge shots flew over the green. Short putts didn’t fall. The reasonable reason was that he hadn’t hit a competitive shot in 31 days, since his final putt on April 14 at Augusta National. When he finally hit one in the first round at Bethpage, the shot was rusty. 

As quickly as it presented itself, his grand slam opportunity has vanished. However, there are two majors left: the US Open and the Open Championship, and Tiger is still sounding optimistic about his chances. “There's no reason why I can't get up to speed again and crank it back up,” Woods said, as quoted by AP. “I've got to start feeling a little bit better first before that happens. We'll do that first and then start cranking it back up again.”

With renewed hope after his Masters win, there’s chatter from fans about whether Tiger can match Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major golf championship title wins. With 15 major titles in his hand, Tiger is closing the gap in his quest for the record but he doesn’t seem to be in any hurry.
“I’m sure that I’ll probably think of it going down the road,” Tiger said, as quoted by New York Times. “Maybe. Maybe not. But right now, it’s a little soon, and I’m just enjoying 15.”

Despite the poor result at the PGA Championship, Tiger still has the opportunity to add another major title to his tally, at least once this year. Looking back at his performance last year, after failure in the 2018 US Open in June, he tied for sixth at the Open and then claimed second-place at the PGA Championship before winning this year’s Masters.

“My last three major championships have been pretty good,” Tiger said. “So that in itself gives me a lot of confidence going down the road.”

In regular Tour events last year, Tiger showed good progress after his injury battles over the previous four years. In 18 tournaments, he finished in the Top 10 eight times, including one title. This year, Tiger has played in seven tournaments with three Top 10 finishes, including one major title, and has only missed one cut. After AT&T Byron Nelson on May 12, he leads in Green in Regulation Percentage and sits at No. 8 in Tee to Green. Tiger has played in just 25 rounds to achieve those statistics, less than the majority of his competitors. 

In addition to the stats, Tiger also has a unique advantage: he already has a record of success on one of the major courses. The US Open in June is at Pebble Beach in California where Tiger won the 2000 tournament by a record 15 strokes — and where he also won the annual PGA Tour event the same year. So, the door is wide open for him.

While Tiger doesn’t have the same advantage going into the Open at Portrush in July, he does have plenty of experience playing, and winning, on links courses. Two major titles at St. Andrews, one of the toughest links courses in the world, will surely be a plus when he visits Northern Ireland in July. 

People are waiting to hear the Tiger’s roar again. His comeback performance at the Masters has raised the hopes of millions who want to see him up and winning frequently again. And Tiger certainly wants it too.

“In the tournaments I do play in,” he said. “I’ll be fully invested and committed to playing and trying to win.” 

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