Tiger's back? Not so fast
Tiger Woods has won three PGA events in 2012, more than any other golfer. He has won three of the past seven events he has entered. He's No. 1 on the PGA money list for 2012 and first in the FedEx standings. Yet I'm still not convinced Tiger is "back.'' Here's why:
He won't be 'back' until he wins a major
Woods can win all the AT&T Nationals, Memorials and Arnold Palmer Invitationals he wants; it's not the same as winning a major. The majors offer the stiffest competition on the most challenging courses. You can't name who won the Waste Management Phoenix Open, but you know who won the Masters. Okay, so you can't blame Tiger for winning against a weak field. He doesn't control who plays in a tournament. Still, Woods' three victories this season have come on courses where he has won before and he didn't exactly have to beat a Who's Who of golfers this past weekend. The leaderboard included names such as Bo Van Pelt, Robert Garrigus, Billy Hurley III and Seung-Yul Noh.
There's no indication he's ready to win a major
Don't be fooled by Woods winning three tournaments in 2012. He won six times in 2009 and that didn't translate into any majors — and that was before his scandal went public. Bottom line: He hasn't won a major since that Thanksgiving night in 2009 when his car, golf game and life crashed into a tree.
The last time Woods won a major was the 2008 U.S. Open. So let's look at Woods starting with that 2008 U.S. Open and going back the previous 15 majors. In those 16 majors, Woods won a remarkable six times and finished second or tied for second four times. He also had a tie for third, a tie for fourth and a tie for ninth. He missed only one cut.
So what about the 16 majors since that 2008 U.S. Open? Well, he sat out four with injury. He missed two cuts. He did have a runnerup finish, as well as three tied for fourth-place finishes and two tied-for-sixths. But, the big number: zero victories. In the past three majors, he missed the cut, tied for 40th and tied for 21st.
We are looking at two completely different golfers. There's the pre-scandal Tiger, who intimidated other golfers into submission and closed out one major after another. Then there's the post-scandal Tiger, who doesn't scare anyone because he can't string together four consecutive good days at a major.
Maybe he can never get back
Perhaps Tiger Woods is chasing something that can't be caught. No one, including the modern-day Woods, can ever duplicate what Woods did from 1999 to 2002 when he won seven majors in an 11-major stretch. From 2005 to 2008, Woods won six majors in a 14-major span. Not even Jack Nicklaus, the all-time leader with 18 major victories, had runs like that. So to expect a 36-year-old Woods to be that golfer again is unreasonable. Perhaps winning just one major would be a big deal considering the past 15 majors have produced 15 different winners, including 12 first-time major winners.
In other words, not only is it unlikely Woods will win the next major, it's unlikely any golfer in particular will win the next major.
Here's the rub: Including injury, Woods has gone 16 consecutive majors without a victory. That's a fact. Is he good enough to win another? Yeah, probably. Will he win another? That remains to be seen. He needs to win a major to prove he can win a major. Then, and only then, we can say he is "back.''