By Eric Margolin
Only serious golf fans really care about these stories. The most miraculous part of the season has been the return of the greatest golfer to walk the planet. Tiger Woods played in seventeen tournaments this season, breaking out the Sunday reds in fifteen. He has two second place finishes and six top-10 finishes. He has jumped to 21st(635 spots) in the Official World Golf Rankings and shot his lowest 18-hole score since 2013 (62). Tiger is back, and it’s good for golf. Whenever he plays on Sunday, Nielsen ratings rocket up. The PGA Championship saw a 69 percent rise in viewership on the final day, solely because of Woods.
Tiger Woods’ career arc is straight out of Hollywood: from unmatched hero, to uncontrollable villain, to washed up addict, to comeback kid. Most people know about Woods’ fall from grace, but very few my age and younger actually comprehend how good he was in his prime. Tiger was an unbeatable force during the 2000’s. Of the 540 weeks between 2000-2010, he was the top ranked golfer in the world for 525 of them. Without having won a tournament in five years, Tiger’s 23.2 percent winning percentage is still the highest of all time (the next closest golfer is at 7.75 percent). He is the only player to win all four major championships in a row, only player to win PGA Player of the Year eleven times, and possesses the lowest career scoring average in history (69.2). Tiger was unstoppable in his prime. Now, after years of waiting, the GOAT is back with one tournament left in the season
With a win at Tour Championship it’s mathematically possible for Tiger to win the FedEx Cup, but it’s unlikely. He would need many of the top players to fall off a cliff over the four day tournament. However, Woods’ chances of winning the tournament are pretty high. Woods has played in the Tour Championship at East Lake nine times in his career, winning one of those tournaments. His average 72 hole score (273.89) is only slightly higher than the average winning score at the Georgia golf club (268.75). Excluding his first year on tour and “injury years,” his average score is less than a stroke away (269.67).
Tiger’s biggest problems this season have been his putting and his driving accuracy. Woods ranks 28th in total putts per round and 122nd in putts inside of ten feet. East Lake, a course known for its difficult green contours, forces players into risky putts if their approach shots aren’t on target. Tiger has to put the ball in the right locations, or his subpar putting could take him out of the running. Thankfully, his driving accuracy shouldn’t matter much with the open course layout. The wide fairways and few trees, should allow Woods to play his game no matter how badly he slices his tee shot. Tiger has a shot to finish his comeback season with a win, but even if he can’t pull it off, the best golfer in the history of the sport is healthy and ready to compete again.
The Tour Championship starts September 19, 2018 at 8:00 AM EST.
Image Source: The New York Times