What Would Convince You That Tiger Is Back or Done?

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I watched the third round of the Chevron Challenge today and agreed with the television pundits that Tiger looks like he’s on his way back. The question is: how far back will he come? I don’t think that anyone believed that he’d pull a Baker-Finch or a Duval and drop off the golf planet entirely (although the thought has crossed my mind). On the other hand,there’s a huge gap between playing like a solid Tour player and returning to Tiger dominance.

I’m often accused of being overly critical of Tiger on this blog. From my perspective, however, I’m just being realistic. Tiger’s thirty six, and has had multiple knee surgeries. The PGA and European Tours now have a huge stockpile of impressively talented players. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to think that’s a lot to overcome. In my analysis, each month that passes while we wait for “Tiger’s Return” makes it more unlikely that we’ll see it.

But I don’t know whether I have a case of confirmation bias in this instance, or if Tiger’s supporters do. So I’m going to pose two questions that can be answered empirically: First, what evidence would convince you that Tiger is back as a major force on the Tour? Conversely, what would convince you that his career has entered its sunset—or will be merely average from here on?

Here are my answers:

I’ll be convinced that he’s back as a major force if he wins a Major and five or six other tournaments over the course of this next year. That, I think, is the minimum standard Tiger set for himself in his era of dominance. Two wins and no major or a single major makes him no better than Keegan Bradley (a fine player, to be sure, but not Old Tiger in his dominance).

On the other hand, if Tiger fails to meet either of those standards this next year, I’ll be absolutely convinced his era of dominance is over. That’ll be three years without a Major, and three without a multiple win season. And as I said before, each passing year makes his return less likely.

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3 thoughts on “What Would Convince You That Tiger Is Back or Done?”

  1. I’ll believe Tiger is in top golf athlete form if he would win three tournaments in one year on courses he’s never played before. So much of the mythos of Tiger Woods consists of him having multiple wins on just a few select venues. I won’t believe he’s a great all-around golfer until he leaves his comfort zone and plays those courses he’s either never played before or doesn’t play because he doesn’t like them.

    Is he a great master of statistical manipulation? Yes. He knows how to keep the #1 ranking and he’s built his exclusive schedule around that plan. That doesn’t necessarily make him a great golfer in my mind though.

    He needs to take risks. Donald plays all over the world and changed his schedule when he wanted to chase the PGA Tour Player of the Year award. Guys like Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson played overseas when they didn’t have to.  I have greater respect for those who go out and grab golf with both hands than those who just manipulate the rankings points and never really test themselves.

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  2. I would say that 2012 that Tiger is again the dominant force if he has Luke’s record for 2011 with one more win.  That would be 3 wins, 2 seconds, and 2 thirds, and 75% in the top 10. 

    Is that a lesser dominance than he had in 2009?  Yes, definitely.  I don’t think that 36 year old Tiger can equal 33 year old Tiger, but he doesn’t have to in order to be head and shoulders above the rest.  If he does manage to do what he did in 2009 (six wins), then it will be truly amazing and full Tiger magic.

    Majors are not a part of my formula.  2009, he did not win a major—you stated that if he doesn’t win next year, that is 3 years without a major – actually it would be 4, right now, he is 3 without a major, 2 without a win. 

    He HAS to get the majors in my mind to be greater than Jack.  Until that happens, I think he is lesser, and HE thinks he is lesser.  Tiger’s stated measure is Jack’s major record, it is not some arbitrary thing that those critical of Tiger come up with.  Tiger is 2nd in Majors; Tiger is 3rd in overall wins (Jack 2nd, Snead 1st).  I think he will top Jack in wins… and IMO he will not top Snead.  And I don’t think he will top Jack in Majors.  As far as top 3 finishes in Majors, it is impossible for Tiger to get to Jack’s record on that (it was 3 years ago too).

    But again, I don’t count majors in whether Tiger is back to old form.  I think he was in that form in 2009 without a major win – it just seemed he was automatic when he was in the field. 

    I do think a lot is at stake for Tiger tomorrow, and it will be telling if he rises or falls.  A win will be significant to him (and especially for his fans), even though a valid argument can be made for how serious a tournament this is—my group today had 4 more players competing than this tournament has) – and a loss sets him back mentally.  I think that losing after the T1 last year after 72 holes probably was a punch to his ego even though McDowell only won because he made TWO unlikely putts in the playoff.  A loss tomorrow when he held the lead on Friday and most of today will be another punch to his ego.

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  3. For me definately he has to win at least once this year on the PGA tour. More importantly, he needs to put 4 good tournament rounds of golf together. Not just 3 good ones, but 4.

    I’d like to see him in contention more often on the final Sunday. Obviously winning a major would be a plus but at least being somewhere around the leaders would be a good start.

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