The only thing more surprising than Tiger Woods winning the 2019 Masters Championship is that the main winner 15 times who won a major championship only 18 months ago is unlikely to argue again even he is not among the top 14 candidates in the field. Perhaps the most damning thing is that the two still amateur golfers (Colin Morikawa and Matthew Wolff) last April when Woods won at Augusta National now have better odds than he would win the 2020 event as he makes a repeat bid.
This is life on the Late Woods rollercoaster.
The successes are high: winning the Masters title, lighting up the Zozo Championship, leading the team and making their way to winning the President’s Cup. The lows aren’t nearly as low as they are only halfway through, which is not a place for the 82-time PGA Tour winner.
However, this is where we stand with Woods.
The juxtaposition is strange. Tiger Woods will not win the 2020 Masters, however, one of the few focal points will be because he is Tiger Woods and because he built one of the great sporting careers based on phrases like ‘Tiger Woods will never win the 2020 Masters’.
However, the data is indisputable. Woods plays like the top 50 or 60 players in the world, who is still good but not someone you might introduce as a Master’s favorite or anywhere near. Since the PGA Tour resumed in June, his best achievement has been T37 in the PGA Championship. His game is a leaky dam. He only blocks one hole to see the other two explode.
However, we’ve seen Woods compete (even compete!) In Augusta National for less than his game to the Masters this time around. Remember 2015? He wasn’t a worker like Jordan Speth, but Woods still finished T17 after he took several months on vacation to fix his chops after some mean pegs at the start of that year. Its game is better now than it was back then.
What makes Woods dangerous in Augusta National is that he is much smarter and wiser than anyone else in the industry. Smart enough to know where every course error is located and wise enough to know when to be patient and disciplined and when to stop the pedal. This two person formula alone is worth a stroke of the day. But there are many more strokes that must be compensated.
In only six rounds so far this year, Woods has had the most negative strokes acquired in every single statistic category.
There is no conspiracy theory to explain his play. His back, legs, and neck seemed to be good enough, and he was mentally healthy. The closest thing that could qualify for a big title when it came to Woods over the past few months is that he changed his grip on his racket at some point. Big news. The simplest explanation for his average performance is that this is simply who Tiger is now.
The troubling part about Woods’ average performance in 2020 is that, in fact Not Injured. When he’s been healthy throughout his career, Tiger has always been an elite, and one of the best ever. Even in the middle of all injuries – when he was healthy, he was cool. It wasn’t true in the back half of 2020. Although he pulled out for a few months early in the year, his battered body has stayed steady ever since, but his game just wasn’t there.
We always thought there would be a negative act that would break a tiger forever. Perhaps he will shoot 90 in the US Open, and that is the conclusion. This will be the turning point between currently existing as a legend and being an earlier one. Hopefully it’s not the injury that takes us to this point.
What if, instead of looking for the negative moment that signals the ending, we overlook the most joyful moments in his career as the one that was the actual ending?
What if his 2019 Masters Tournament victory was the true swan song – at least in the major tournaments – to the greatest song of all time? It would be weird because success always breeds more success for Woods, but it would also be a good fit.
Isn’t it plausible that he climbed the mountain one last time that made him rest all that he was carrying? Tiger has not been the same at the big companies since the Masters won three missed cuts and wasn’t the top 20 in five matches.
Last year was a legendary master. Films (collection) will be made on this topic. Sunday was like a dream. And while much has gone the wrong way for Woods during the latter half of his career, something ran his way: his 15th and 5th major green jacket came in the pre-pandemic world that he could properly celebrate. Can you imagine if he won it in 2020 with no patrons bathing in the old Fruitlands nursery with cheers for the person who chanted their name two decades ago when they first won? It could have been good, but it didn’t mean much.
Nobody knows how Tiger will be playing over the course of the next week, month or year. Not even the tiger. Whether he won another 10 majors or never made another cut, one thing remains.
The 2020 Masters tournament – bizarre and unconventional though it might be – is a reminder that, just one season ago, this great athlete who was inside what could be considered a coincidence of his former character touched an unimaginable week in Augusta National.
Augusta’s destruction was one thing for the 21-year-old, but it was even more connected when the 43-year-old brought his kids and cried out in the same sky and that same sun in total disbelief. I’m glad he (and we) got to try it. This year, with no shepherds in attendance and less noise on the property, someone other than Woods will be screaming into the sky, but not quite as feeling as it was only 19 months ago.