Woods’ record chase is in danger

dshirley@macon.comJanuary 26, 2014 

Even with all his struggles in recent years as he tries to add another major championship to his resume, I never thought the following sentence would end up in a column of mine: It doesn’t look like Tiger Woods is going to break Jack Nicklaus’ record for major titles.

Woods has 14 majors, second only to the 18 Nicklaus won during his marvelous career. But Woods has been stuck on 14 since he won the 2008 U.S. Open. He has had a lot of off-course problems since then with injuries and family upheaval, but Woods also has had plenty of problems on the course. In 2009, he had a three-shot lead entering the final round of the PGA Championship, only to see Y.E. Yang catch him and pass him for Yang’s only major.

That was something we had never seen when Woods was leading going into the final round of a major, and we certainly didn’t expect to see it from a player like Yang. But it was just a sign of things to come, and Woods’ drought in majors will carry into this year’s Masters, which will be played April 10-13.

Heading into that week, there will be plenty of talk about how Woods plays well at Augusta National Golf Club and how he’s always a contender there, no matter how he’s playing. That’s true. He usually is in the mix in the season’s first major, but for some reason, it doesn’t look like Woods has the game anymore to get over the top.

Last year, he finished tied for fourth at the Masters and tied for sixth at the British Open, but in the U.S. Open and PGA Championship, he finished tied for 32nd and tied for 40th, respectively. Woods did end up with five wins last year, including The Players Championship, so it’s hard to call that a disappointing season. Still, there was something off about Woods’ game at the biggest tournaments and in the biggest moments, and that has been true for several years.

That’s sad because golf is more interesting when Woods is playing well, getting in the hunt and ... winning. That last part is the most important. When Woods is winning, golf is dynamic and exciting. When he’s not, well, there are still plenty of good players, but it’s not the same.

You just have to wonder if things will ever swing back in his favor. Woods just turned 38 in December, so there is plenty of time for him to pass Nicklaus. But before Woods can win major No. 19, he has to get No. 15, and it’s hard to think that is going to happen with the way things are going, especially after his play in his first tournament this year.

Playing at Torrey Pines, one of his favorite courses, Woods was never in the hunt at this weekend’s Farmers Insurance Open. He missed the 54-hole cut after shooting a third-round 79, which included seven straight holes with bogey or worse. It was just one round, and one weekend, for sure, but it makes you wonder about the state of his game.

And it makes you wonder it he’ll ever get back on top in the majors and pass Nicklaus.

Contact Daniel Shirley at 744-4227 or dshirley@macon.com

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