This past Sunday at THE PLAYERS Championship marked the first time since September 2013 that Tiger Woods completed the final round of consecutive PGA TOUR events. For those counting, that’s 596 days. Woods described his week at TPC Sawgrass as “a mixed bag.” Woods followed that by saying, “A lot of really, really good stuff out there, some mediocre and some bad.”
Bad is one way to describe it. This past week was Eldrick’s worst PLAYERS finish of his career after finishing 3-over to tie for 69th. Saturday’s third round featured the first double bogey for Woods at THE PLAYERS in his career. Not once, but twice. In 245 par 5s played at TPC Sawgrass, Tiger saw his first and second double bogey in the same round. He would follow that up on Sunday with his first triple bogey ever at THE PLAYERS, that’s 1,058 holes played. Failing to break par three times, Woods finished with a total score of 291. He shot the same score back in 1999, but he finished tied for 10th back then in much more difficult conditions. His previous worst finish was a T-53rd in 2005 when he shot a total of 293 shooting a 5-over. However, Woods also won the Masters Tournament, The British Open Championship, and returned to number one in the world that year.
Tiger gave up nearly half a stroke to the field with his putting at THE PLAYERS, hit half of his fairways giving up a stroke to the field with his driver, and was 61% in greens in regulation. To put Woods’ week into perspective, champion Rickie Fowler had similar success with his GIRs, but GAINED nearly a stroke on the field with his putting and hit almost 63% of his fairways.
While Fowler gained a total of 3 strokes over the course of the week, Tiger lost 0.8 strokes. Tiger didn’t have the greatest stats, but they are certainly much better than his first two starts of the season at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and the Farmers Insurance Open.
“We’re progressing,” he said. “It’s a matter of putting the pieces together first. I mean, look where it was at on the West Coast and to where I’m at now. So let’s just keep progressing, keep putting the pieces together, keep chipping away at it. And I’m very pleased at the way we’re just chipping away at it. We had some glaring weaknesses at the beginning of the year, those are now gone, and now we can start cleaning up some other stuff, too.”
Despite his worst finish at THE PLAYERS, there were signs of light in Tiger’s game. Woods said he feels “way more comfortable” than he did at the Masters where he finished tied for 17th. “Out there, I reverted back a couple times, so be it, it happens. But also I did some really good stuff out there too,” Woods said following his final round.
The good stuff Tiger is referring to is his five birdies on Sunday, which included three consecutive birdies. Eldrick had 18 birdies total for the week, but mixed that in with four double bogeys and a triple. If Woods can keep those high numbers off his scorecard, his final score is looking much prettier than a 3-over.
The confidence still seems to be there for Tiger. He’s been optimistic about his rounds and is showing signs of progress. Things could have been a lot worse for Woods this week. He slipped into the weekend by making birdie at the final hole on Friday afternoon to finish his round at 1-under 71 and get to even par for the tournament. Tiger gave a fist pump after sinking the putt to make the cut and, while it’s sad to see him fist pump to make it to the weekend, it’s good to see his passion is still there.
Tiger Woods isn’t playing in the Wells Fargo Championship this weekend as he is busy with his Tiger Jam event in Vegas which benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation. His next event is in four weeks at the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village. As far as the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in June, Tiger said he will visit the course in the weeks before the tournament. “When, I don’t know, but I will definitely get out there,” he said. “From what I hear, it’s a golf course we need to take a look at a few times before the week.”
He’s seeing progress in his game, but his mind is still cluttered with thoughts of his old and new swing and he’s not getting much out of his rounds. With the likes of Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, and Rickie Fowler, Tiger’s competition has never been stronger. While progress is good, he’s fighting against Father Time to beat Jack’s record of 18 majors. Turning 40 this December, the clock is ticking for Woods. The oldest anyone has ever won a major was Julius Boros in 1963 at the age of 48. Nicklaus won his last major at the age of 46. It’s not impossible to catch Jack, but the door is closing and the more time he spends trying to figure out his golf swing, the less opportunities he will have.