Tiger Woods Is Probably Right: He’s Getting Close
By Merf under Tiger Woods

I was prepared to write a post detailing how Tiger Woods’ golf game has become as boring and predictable as one of his post-round interviews. (Seriously, Woods’ quotes are rivaling Dustin Johnson for blandness these days. And sorry for all the DJ references. The only golf I’ve been able to see in person the last two years has been at Pebble Beach, so I’ve been a bit brainwashed by him.)

At least to me, Woods seemed to be playing every tournament with a U.S. Open mentality, never straying too far from par. He’s finished double-digits under par just once this year, and he’s only broken par in 10 of 19 rounds. This is a guy who once had 52 consecutive rounds at par or better. Snap out of it!

But after taking a closer look at Woods’ results, I realized it would be way too early in his season to make a definitive statement about his game. His ramped-up practice schedule to get ready for the Masters led to his neck injury, and his recovery from that has stunted his progress. And then there’s the mental toll of his turbulent personal life.

He’s not where any of us thought he would be. And while I roll my eyes at all the excuses he offers, the stats show he’s really close.

Woods is first on the PGA Tour in proximity to the pin from 125-150 yards, 175-200 yards and 225 yards-250 yards. And he’s fourth in approaches greater than 200 yards. So iron play? Check.

As a result, he’s first in birdie or better conversion. So he’s making birdies — and eagles. He’s also second in putting from 3-5 feet, and 12th from 5-15 feet.

So what’s all this wanking about his putting? Well, from 5-15 feet, Woods converts at 50 percent. But from 15-25 feet, he drops to just 11.43 percent, or just 168th on the PGA Tour. He’s also just 139th in three-putt avoidance.

Woods is throwing away strokes with his short game, which is understandable, since that area requires the most feel. He’s only hitting the green 75 percent of the time from inside 125 yards, which ranks 188th on Tour. And his scrambling after he misses the green is just as bad. He’s only getting up and down 53.21 percent of the time, 171st on Tour. To put that in perspective, he’s actually hitting fairways more frequently (57.98 percent).

So what do ya know? Golf comes down to short game and putting. Woods the swing coach is doing well, but he needs to spend less time on the range, and have more chipping contests. Woods’ biggest X-factor — his driver — is actually behaving this week. He’s first in driving distance (328.3 yards), which means he has the confidence to swing away with the Big Dog.

Yes, Woods made the cut on the number this week, but his ball-striking shows that he’s on track to contend at the British Open, and he’s not too far away from throwing up some 63s again.

[AP Photo/Rob Carr]