x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Tiger Woods still trying hard to match up to his past glories

Over the past two years, despite multiple chances, Woods has moved steadily backwards on the weekend at majors.

Tiger Woods has endured frustrating weekends at the major championships in recent times.
Tiger Woods has endured frustrating weekends at the major championships in recent times.

Tiger Woods has won five times this year on the PGA Tour, the 10th time he has reached that impressive threshold, yet he still has not won a major championship since mid-2008, easily the longest grand slam drought of his record-obliterating career.

For years, Woods repeatedly has insisted that the difference between a good year and a great one was the presence of a major victory on his annual CV.

He went a step further this week at the US PGA Championship, the last of the four majors this season. "Even if you miss the cut in every tournament you play in, you win one [major], you're part of history," he said.

Absurdity aside, he then tersely reversed his field, seemingly switching to a metric measure.

When it was noted that he had just characterised 2013 as a "great" year, despite the absence of a major title, he reeled off a pair of curtly dismissive, one-word answers, generating nervous laughs.

It was a fair point to raise, however. Sure, it is hard to classify a five-win season as anything resembling failure - only one other player has reached five wins in a PGA Tour season since Woods turned pro - yet Woods is being judged not just by previous records, but by the measure of his own words.

To veteran Woods-watchers, it smacked of self-rationalisation.

Even after thrashing the world-class field in last weekend's seven-stroke victory at Firestone, Woods remains very much an enigma this week in upstate New York. The last time the PGA was played at this week's venue, Oak Hill, he finished 39th. In 25 major championships played on par-70 venues as a pro, Woods has more missed cuts (three) than victories (two).

That is a notable sample size. Oak Hill is a par-70 course, but then again, so is Firestone, where he has eight career victories.

Over the past two years, despite multiple chances, Woods has moved steadily backwards on the weekend at majors. From 2005 through 2011, he was a combined 60-under par in the third and fourth rounds at majors.

This year and last, he is a combined 23 over. Nonetheless, especially after last week's field-razing win in Ohio, Woods is the runaway favourite to triumph.

Sometimes, in both words and deeds, Woods paints himself into a cruel corner, especially as it relates to his obsession with Jack Nicklaus's record number of 18 career majors.

Now 37, Woods needs victories at five more majors to break the record, which, for the sake of context, is the same number of grand slam titles Phil Mickelson has managed over the whole of his 21-year career.