Tiger's task

When relevant becomes irrelevant?

PGA Championship – Tiger’s task

PGA Championship - Tiger's task
(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

TULSA, OK.  After concluding third round play with a dismal score of 79, Tiger Woods opted to withdraw from Sunday’s final round and return to his home in Florida, Woods looked completely out of sorts and the spectacle of him making the cut for a second straight major event was overshadowed by how matters concluded at both Augusta and Tulsa, respectively.

PGA Championship – Tiger’s task

Tiger’s second tournament appearance in 2022 came at the 104th PGA Championship at Southern Hills and his performance raises serious questions on whether the 15-time major winner has the wherewithal to compete successfully in golf’s most significant events.

The reality is straightforward — can he truly be relevant going forward?

The 46-year-old made his initial appearance at this year’s Masters after being on the sidelines for fourteen months following a motor vehicle accident that took place in February 2021. Tiger’s opening round at Augusta was below par but he successfully made the cut. But his play for the final 36 holes was woeful with consecutive rounds of 78 and with him eventually finishing 47th.

PGA Championship – Tiger’s task

The entry into the PGA Championship marked a return to Soutern Hills where Tiger claimed his fourth PGA title in 2007.  Woods started with a flourish, birdieing the opening hole but as his round progressed his overall play waned finishing with a four-over-par 74. Complicating matters was the pairing as Woods player alongside him was Rory McIlroy who fashioned a first-round leading score of 65 to Tiger’s 74. The disparity between the two was reminiscent of 2019 at Bethpage during the first round of the PGA Championship — when paired with Brooks Koepka who scored a 63 to his 72.

To say Woods was overmatched in both outcomes would be a gross understatement.

At this year’s Masters, Tiger was emphatic he could win when asked, uttering a terse two-word reply, “I do.”

PGA Championship – Tiger’s task

Tiger also stated he would be aware when his playing ability slacked off — thereby causing him to cease being competitive. He elaborated that being competitive was uppermost in his mind. with him having no interest in simply being a ceremonial player Woods adamantly emphasized if his level of play was consistently and clearly absent, he would retire from competitions.

Relevance for Tiger is having the ability to win. His last triumph came in the 2019 Masters which happened prior to his most recent surgery. In the several majors he has played since then he has not been able to finish in the top twenty in any of them.

Woods further stated at Augusta National that he would no longer play a full schedule and would only enter the sport’s most crucial events — mainly the major championships. His wherewithal to sustain success is front and center. with winning being the mandatory connection.

PGA Championship – Tiger’s task

At this moment it is hard to envision Tiger playing in the U.S. Open which is annually the most grueling of the majors played The good news for Tiger regarding The Open Championship is his total knowledge of the course — having won there twice (2000 and 2005) and how the layout is essentially flat allowing him a far easier walk when held against the likes of Augusta National and Southern Hills respectively.

Woods was clearly impacted by the much cooler temperatures that entered the picture during Saturday’s third round. He needed to hole a short putt on the 18th hole simply to assure that he would break 80 — for the round. The 79 he scored was the highest single round in his twenty-two PGA Championship appearances.

Hitting practice balls, given the collective injuries he has endured, is limited. His swing has been modified because of an inability to push off the ground with his feet. As a result, his power game shots with the driver and other longer clubs cause him to face more challenging approach shots and cede meaningful advantages to those competing against him.

PGA Championship – Tiger’s task

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Going Forward​

Charting the future for Tiger’s connection to competitive golf is hard to do with any degree of certainty. Woods has always had a penchant for privacy and only provides information as circumstances warrant. He has filed an entry in the next major event — the U.S. Open in the Boston area in mid-June — but there is no guarantee he will be playing.

There’s also the possibility he may opt to play a competitive event prior to the U.S. Open in order to build-up his endurance and get more competitive rounds under his belt. If that happens — the likely tournament could be The Memorial where he has won five times. The event’s link to its founder Jack Nicklaus may also prove to be a connection that spurs him to play.

Given how matters have played out so far in 2022 it is hard to conceive of him being in the field for the first round at The Country Club on June 16.

On the flip side, Woods may opt to remain on the sidelines till July when he has stated his desire to play in the J.P. McManus Pro-Am at Adare Manor in Ireland (July 4-5). Woods has also stated his desire to play in the 150th anniversary of The Open Championship at The Old Course at St. Andrews later that same month. Woods also stated at this year’s Masters he would no longer play a full schedule because of the injuries received during the February 2021 accident and other surgeries he has faced from years prior. The lack of competitive events has shown an inability to play consistently at the highest of levels.

PGA Championship – Tiger’s task

There’s also the lack of endurance on full display at Southern Hills, Tiger was both awkward in his stride and appeared physically labored when traversing the Tulsa-based layout that is anything but flat. 

His renowned iron game was a big let down in his latest tournament effort and his putting prowess was hardly on display.

How long will Tiger continue to play competitively? Without solid improvement Woods will be pressed on his Masters comments and whether they still apply.

No pun intended — Tiger is hardly out of the woods now. Yet he remains the sport’s main attraction as crowds flocked to see him at Southern Hills.

To paraphrase former NFL football coach Bill Parcells — you are what your golf scores say you are.

PGA Championship – Tiger’s task

Those scores are indicative of a golfer simply not able to compete. Can Tiger turn matters around? And if he’s unable to do so will he opt to forge onward or follow-through on his Masters statement that he will remove himself from competitions?

Will Woods return to his long-time role of being the hunter or will Tiger be the prey others can now vanquish with ease?

Whenever his next event takes place — the stakes will only be that much higher.