(Tiger Woods debuts on the PGA Tour this week at Pebble Beach. GolfersWest writers Jim Street and Bob Sherwin take opposing views on what’s ahead for 14-time major champion).
By Jim Street
Take this to the bank: Tiger Woods will win another major championship in 2012. It will be the 15th of his career and move him within three of the all-time record. More importantly, it will inject him with a strong dose of confidence going forward.
And why am I so sure of this? It’s the swing.
When you compare the swing developed by new coach Sean Foley, which is much smoother and controlled than the violent ones he had before, it tells me that Tiger can remain healthy and regain his status as the best golfer in the world.
Indeed, the “new” Tiger has some big shoes to fill that the “old” Tiger left behind a couple of years ago.
And although I doubt that he will dominate any given season the way he did in the past because there are so many terrific young players, Tiger’s desire to dominate the field (and course) all the time remains as strong as ever. He still wants to win every tournament he enters and now that he seems comfortable with Foley’s less-means-more swing philosophy, the only obstacle sits on Tiger’s shoulders.
He must re-learn how to win.
Tiger can do this by “allowing” a good tournament to happen. He still forces the issue at times, putting too much pressure on himself, and that has prevented him from having the four consistent rounds needed to win an event.
His competitors had better watch out when Tiger’s mindset matches his swing.
The new swing should result in more fairways hit, the more greens hit and, eventually, the more birdie and/or eagle putts made.
When that happens, and I believe it will, then we can all say, “Tiger is back!”
By Bob Sherwin
The window for Tiger Woods to break Jack Nicklaus’ record for major championships has closed. It fell on his, let’s say his head.
Woods, who debuts on the PGA Tour this week at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am, has himself to blame for the stalled effort to break the Bear’s record of 18 majors. Woods has 14, but has not won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. Then came his knee surgery, a new swing and – the most damaging – the distraction of his sexual dalliances and ultimate divorce from his model wife, Elin Nordegren.
Those factors has limited him to just 27 tournaments the past two seasons. He missed the cut or withdrew from four of them. He finished 30th or worse six times and has just one victory – the Chevon World Challenge last Dec. 5 in a somewhat depleted field. That’s a paper Tiger, certainly not one we have been used to.
From 1999 to 2009, Woods averaged 6 ½ victories per season with an amazing 158 top 10 finishes during that span. He has just eight top 10 finishes over the past two seasons.
Woods may have a new improved swing but when his car hit that tree outside his house on Nov. 27, 2009, he irreparably injured his mojo. That may be the tougher than his reputation to recover.
His subsequent personal troubles put him in a free fall back to the pack. His competitors no longer fear him. He no longer engenders fear. That was shown a couple weeks ago when he held the third-round lead in Abu Dhabi Championship then faded down the stretch and finished third. He had been 48-4 in his career when leading of sharing the lead after three rounds.
His mental game – the strongest element in his bag – has been dismantled. He’s trying to pick up the pieces of his life and his game and that’s going to take time that he may not have. Age and a whole bunch of young fearless competitors have caught and passed him.
Woods turned 36 on Dec. 30. As he gets older, his competitors keep getting younger. Kyle Stanley, 25, who won Sunday after losing in a playoff a week ago, is the latest to emerge. Stanley is among many under-30 standouts who have been tearing up the Tour. They include Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer, Dustin Johnson, Hunter Mahan, Camilo Villegas, Ryo Ishikawa, Ricky Fowler, Anthony Kim, Jason Day, Sean O’Hair, Charl Schwartzel, and Francisco and Matteo Molinari.
Woods is going to win again. Older guys have shown they can still be competitive, such as Phil Mickelson, David Toms, Steve Sticker, Kenny Perry and Vijay Singh. Woods will win his share and likely will return to be among the top 10 players in the world.
But he’s got a load of talent to climb over every time a major rolls around. They’re all going to be there and they all want it as badly as he does. Woods is not inside their heads anymore.