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It can’t go on like this – Tiger Woods needs to find a new way

Constrained by his physical limitations, the 15-time major winner just isn’t playing enough to be a factor

 

Pinehurst No. 2 should have been perfect. None of the energy-sapping, lactic acid-building hills of Augusta National, or the rain and fog of Valhalla.

Donald Ross’s masterpiece is pretty flat and the North Carolina temperatures are soaring. Ideal for a man who really should be getting round on a cart, and whose body seizes up at the first sign of a freeze.

More than that, Pinehurst’s barren wastelands and mushroom greens reward brains over brawn. You can’t overpower it. You have to think your way round.

And no one knows more about how to golf his ball in such conditions than Tiger Woods.

“This is the kind of test he could excel at,” said Paul McGinley on Sky Sports Golf commentary. “This is right up his street.”

But the 15-time major winner is again off the pace. After an almost superhuman effort to make the cut at the Masters, his major rounds have gone like this: 82, 77, 72, 77 and, today, 74.

I think Tiger’s still got the game. The swing speed is up there, the movement itself looks solid. He remains capable of excellence.

What he doesn’t have, as he used to be so fond of explaining, are the ‘reps’. He’s a man who just isn’t playing enough.

Woods’ physical limitations, the result of that horrific car accident and a dozen other surgeries, have restricted him to the hope – note ‘hope’ – he can play one tournament a month.

The schedule he’s opting for is based on pride rather than logic. It’s the major championships and nothing else.

It takes a special kind of confidence to believe you can turn up at the big four tournaments and seriously compete without any tune up.

Tiger Woods schedule

Tiger Woods schedule: “I just haven’t been able to play as much”

Tiger himself has acknowledged this, explaining after missing the cut at the PGA Championship that: “I need to play more. Unfortunately, I just haven’t played a whole lot of tournaments, and not a whole lot of tournaments on my schedule either.”

He also maintains, though, to any journalist who asks the question that he can not only compete but win.

The evidence to date is that his conviction is fantasy. Woods spent most of the first round at Pinehurst looking like he was feeling for his game, particularly with the putter.

Major tournaments aren’t the place to grow into a swing. They’re the place to excel. While Woods plays the big four tournaments, and those alone, he has little chance of finding a rhythm.

“I’m physically getting better as the year has gone on,” he said after his opening Pinehurst foray. “I just haven’t been able to play as much because I just don’t want to hurt myself pre, then I won’t be able to play in the major championships.

“It’s pick your poison, right? Play a lot with the potential of not playing, or not playing and fight being not as sharp.”

It is a quandary to be sure but, at the moment, he’s caught in a major no man’s land.

If his body will not permit a warm up week, he needs to consider what he plays in and accept that all four majors are a step too far. They’re clearly what everyone wants to play, but rather pointless if you’re just spending the weekend at home.

Maybe his current performances will start to free up the schedule for him in the longer term.

Woods received a special exemption to play at Pinehurst – his five-year exempted status from winning the Masters in 2019 having expired.

No one should begrudge him that invitation. The three US Open trophies on his mantelpiece are good enough reason alone.

But surely they can’t just keep handing them out? In today’s game, would the USGA keep presenting opportunities on ceremony alone?

So you feel that to carry on at the US Open, he’s going to need to do something that’s been missing since his return to competition. Put in better scores.

Right now, without a change in strategy, without a schedule that allows him to come to a big tournament without having to fight off the ring rust, you struggle to see where they are coming from.

Pictures courtesy of the USGA

Now have your say

What do you think of Tiger Woods schedule? Is he finished as a major force, or does Tiger Woods schedule need to pivot away from majors only to help recapture the form that won the Masters in 2019? Let me know by leaving a comment on X.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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