Given the tournament’s lack of preparation, it doesn’t say much for Tiger Woods’ confidence in his own body that he’s not in Memphis, Tennessee, this week before next week’s PGA Championship.
Sure, there are other compelling explanations for skipping the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, chief among them is the fact that you’ve never seen the TPC Southwind course.
Add the sweltering heat, good chances of thunderstorms (and delays) and the extreme temperature difference between Memphis and San Francisco the following week for the PGA Championship, and there are plenty of good reasons to relax this week, work on the game at home, and get ready for the first overdue race of 2020.
As Woods said Friday in announcing that he would skip the WGC, “he is doing what I think is best to prepare for the PGA Championship and the upcoming FedEx Cup playoffs.”
Fair enough. Woods knows better than anyone how his body is reacting these days and the parts of his game that need to work.
However, it is revealing that he is not competing, especially considering that he has only had four tournament rounds to his name since February, and he is still showing plenty of competitive rust.
Woods has always been a strong advocate for World Golf Championship events, rarely skipping them when he is healthy, save for a few Match Play glitches over the years. Woods has said many times that he appreciates the efforts of the PGA Tour to secure these high-value events. And he has won 18 of them.
Eight of them arrived at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where they dominated the Firestone Country Club course. And he played that tournament eight times the week before the PGA Championship, the only important one as a professional he played in the week before, so there was a precedent for him to do so.
And yet he made a pass, despite some of the flaws in his game and lack of preparation.
It’s easy to guess now, but perhaps one of the previous events (RBC Heritage or Travelers?) On the PGA Tour reboot of the coronavirus pandemic would have made sense, especially given the possibility of skipping the WGC.
Consecutive events will always be dangerous for Woods, but given his rather lackluster performance at the Memorial, where he shot 76 twice and tied for 40th, it could have been understood.
Of course, the second-round 76 was largely due to obvious back stiffness. Woods couldn’t hide his discomfort, and the shooting patterns (he missed seven tee shots to the right in the second round) along with several awkward or one-handed shots were clues.
So Woods has work to do this week to prepare for the PGA, which will be played at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, a place where he has been successful. Woods won the 2005 WGC-American Express Invitational there in 2005 in a tie over John Daly. And in the 2009 Presidents Cup, he went 5-0.
But those events were a long time ago.
“I competed and played again,” he said after the final round at the Memorial. “It’s been a while”. It was nice getting my feet wet and competing again. Difficult and difficult conditions to start my first week back. But it was good to have the feeling and the flow of competing again. ”
That sounds great if he followed up his first event of the year in January, with a slow build up at the Masters.
But Tiger has something to cover this week, and here are a few things to keep in mind.
Woods is scrutinized like no other and often judged on his own high standards and expectations. With a little perspective, his presentation at the Memorial was decent, if not great, but far from horrible. He returned to Muirfield Village in the most difficult setting to date on the revised calendar, in a course that played as a major championship over the weekend. That was not a simple foray into golf.
Perhaps most impressive: Woods was tied for sixth in shots, moved closer to the green and tied for 18th on regulation greens with 62.5%. Man can still hit his irons with the best of them. That is always important in a major championship.
Anecdotally and statistically, Woods’ swing speed was slower than it has been, which is good and bad. It is good that it no longer sways so violently. There were many long tee shots, over 300 yards, and especially over the weekend, the swing looked smooth.
The lack of speed could be by design or because he was being careful. Given all the time outside for Woods, it was kind of surprising to see some of those numbers decrease. In 2018 Woods averaged a ball speed of 178 mph; He was mostly under 170 at the Memorial and his average load was under 280 yards.
But it is not necessarily negative, unless other parts of your game are not good. Woods was a mediocre 42nd in punches won from the tee, meaning he was giving way to the field. His driving accuracy was 55%, which is more or less, but it should be better, especially since many of the failures were with clubs other than the driver.
This is one of those confusing things about the Tiger game. Statistically, he often hits the ball closer to the hole compared to his peers from 180 yards than from 100. That’s the key to scoring par 5, and Woods was just 1 low for the week at Muirfield Village. He also hit only 75% of the greens for 100 to 125 yards.
This has to improve, and Tiger said so. “I was not comfortable playing halftime,” Woods said. “I’ve been to Florida playing Bermuda.” [greens] and seeing minimal rest. Come here and play 10, 12 foot rest was a little different and something I’ll have to get used to. ”
Understandable, really. Not that Tiger has been playing a lot of courses at home. At the Memorial, he was number 56 in strokes won, losing ground on the field. He also missed several shorts. All of that can be cleaned.
The good news for Woods is that Harding Park does not have the traditional California poa annua greens that sometimes give it attacks. (Think Riviera, for example). They are bent grass, like the surface of Muirfield Village and Augusta National. Woods plays in Bermuda at home, but those tend to live up to the level of the course. Bending can be faster, but it’s generally smooth, exactly the way he likes it.
It would make sense for Woods to come to Harding Park early, perhaps this weekend, to learn how to learn those greens.
It almost sounds silly, but a golfer has to learn to walk when he has not been playing golf tournaments. Woods undoubtedly played a lot of golf at his local field, the medalist in South Florida, but there is little evidence that he has walked much. His caddy, Joe LaCava, who often pushes him to do this when he is around, was not summoned to Florida before Woods’ return. Most of the golf was done off the cart, and that makes sense on some levels. Woods wants to work on his game, and moving quickly allows more time to get up on the field and into the gym.
But there is still something to be said for going through the motions of hitting a drive, walking to the ball, approaching, walking to the green … and never sitting down. Think about it. This is pretty much how every round of golf is played on tour, with maybe once or twice when Woods sits in his bag while the game has slowed down.
It takes getting used to that pace, and standing for long periods of time and walking more than 5 miles in extreme heat conditions comes at a cost, not to mention that it causes back stiffness.
Harding Park is not a strenuous hike, and temperatures won’t rise much above 70 degrees. But it is something to watch.
Lack of golf tournament
Woods has rarely entered a major championship with so little tournament preparation, with a few notable exceptions.
He will go to Harding Park after having played only one of the previous eight weeks on the restart of the tour. That puts him far behind almost any other top player except Adam Scott, who hasn’t played during the restart. Add the lack of action for Woods since he played the Genesis Invitational, and he’s played just one of the last 11 events.
In 2015, Woods took nine weeks off due to chipping issues and problems following a withdrawal from the Farmers Insurance Open. He started that year with a failed cut and then WD and didn’t play again until the Masters, where he tied for 17th.
In 2011, Woods suffered Achilles and knee injuries at the Masters, retired after nine holes in the Players Championship, then did not play again until the WGC-Bridgestone in August, the week before the PGA, where he missed the cut. .
In 2010, Woods did not play until the Masters after his personal problems. The fact that he managed to tie for fourth place, opened with a 68, and was in contention on the final day was a remarkable achievement given all that swirled around him at the time.
In 2008, Woods did not play between the Masters and the US Open. He underwent what was supposed to be a minor knee procedure, but caused minor bone fractures in his left leg and an eventual ACL replacement. . He won the US Open despite all those problems.
Simply put, throughout his career, Woods has had far more tournament preparation in a major career than he does now.
Looking to the future
Woods made reference to the FedEx Cup playoffs in his tweet announcing that he would not play this week. If you intend to get to Atlanta for the Tour Championship, you have some work to do, and it will be interesting to see how you intend to handle it.
After the 3M Open, Woods fell to 45th in the FedEx Cup ranking (and 15th in the Official World Golf Ranking) and is likely to drop further after missing the WGC this week.
That means he could use a good week in the PGA Championship to get closer to the top 30, which will be necessary to get to Atlanta.
Here’s the problem Woods faces: The first playoff event, the Northern Trust at TPC-Boston, is just two weeks after the PGA. That event has a 36 hole cut. You’re unlikely to play three weeks in a row in the playoffs, so sit outside the Northern Trust and expect the top 70 in the BMW? If so, you could be placed in a position where you are too far back and need a great ending.
So, are you going to Boston hoping to stay out of Chicago? Or do you consider playing both and taking a risk in a third consecutive week in Atlanta if you do?
Difficult decisions. After all, the rescheduled US Open is only two weeks after the Tour Championship. Woods needs to play, but he doesn’t want to play too much.
Woods is certainly not concerned about that now. A great week is coming in San Francisco.