The most jarring part of Tiger Woods’ string of bad performances in 2015 is that there’s no consistency to his badness.
One week he can’t putt. The next week he can’t drive. The week after that he can’t hit an iron shot with any sort of distance control.
We know why he’s struggling: he’s in the middle of changing his swing at the same time that he’s returning from major back surgery at age 39. But those reasons aren’t expressing themselves in any consistent way on the course. Golfers of every skill level dread the two-way miss — where you can’t stop hooking it or slicing it, and thus can’t isolate the problem that’s plaguing your game. Well, Tiger has something like a generalized version of that for his entire golf game. So much is wrong that it’s hard to see him fixing it all anytime soon.
In February his short game was so bad people thought he had the chipping yips:
These short game issues still pop up every once in a while:
At the Greenbrier in July his putting was so bad he had the best distance to the hole statistics of his career but still finished 32nd:
He said after the final round, “I obviously needed to make some putts today, and it was just one of those days where the putts that I read perfectly and were hit right still lipped out. The putts that I didn’t hit well weren’t going to go in. Even my putts I made, took a step, they didn’t go in.”
Those issues seem to have followed him to St. Andrews:
In the first round of the British Open he hit nearly every fairway, but somehow only hit half the greens in regulation.
He was ranked 12th in fairways hit, but 135th in greens in regulation:
He was putting himself in solid position, but just had no control of his irons:
At the US Open in June, only three guys in the entire field hit fewer fairways than Tiger, and one of them had to WD:
The guy was driving it all over the place, forcing him into second shots like these:
So we have chipping, putting, driving, and distance control issues. It’s really an “all of the above” type of situation for Tiger in 2015.
To complicate things even further, Tiger is having trouble translating his progress on the range to progress when it counts. At the Greenbrier, CBS showed a great video of Tiger’s range drive and competition drive side-by-side. It showed that he’s rushing things on the course.
At the very least, this suggests he’s not entirely comfortable with his new swing and doesn’t have it committed to muscle memory yet. If you want to be more pessimistic, it suggests he has to overcome a mental hurdle to do what he does in practice when it counts.
Everyone who cares about golf wants to see Tiger Woods get back to the point where he’s contending in majors. But considering the sheer variety of problems he’s fighting through right now, it will likely take longer than we think.
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