Ok, so Tiger hasn’t captured his comeback win just yet, and many of us were disappointed to not see him come out on top at the API given his past performance at Bay Hill and his strong form at the Valspar.
But all hope is certainly not lost and we still have plenty of reasons to keep our hopes up for a validating win this season. And that win might just come sooner rather than later.
#1 His Club-Head Speed
Tiger recording the top club-head speed on the PGA Tour obviously captured a lot of headlines, but as far as statistics go, swing speed is probably the least important factor on my list. However, Tiger’s speed is not something to be overlooked, primarily because it serves as an indicator for his overall health.
The fact that Tiger himself is unsure of how he’s already recording such impressive club-head speeds tells me it’s not something he’s thinking too closely about. More importantly, it shows that his back is feeling well enough to allow him to swing freely without him having to “hold back” as a natural tendency to protect a lingering injury.
In other words, it’s quite clear that Woods is pain free right now.
That’s also evident in the fact that he’s taking on, and pulling off, shots like this:
The line between “vintage Tiger” and current Tiger is quickly becoming blurred.
#2 His Feel Around the Greens
I’ve said many times on the podcast that feel around the greens is usually the first thing to go (and the last thing to return) when you’re away from the game for any extended period of time.
The golf swing itself is a lot like riding a bicycle, you can quickly come back to the basics even if it’s been a while since you held a club. Assuming health is not an issue the real challenge when getting back into playing is getting your finesse back on and around the greens.
The good news for Tiger is that his performance at the Arnold Palmer Invitational silenced any critics who were still holding on to claims that Woods’ short game has yet to return.
“This is a really tough get here to get within several feet.”#QuickHits pic.twitter.com/8TytZBAXn1
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 17, 2018
Greenside bunkers, bump and run chip shots…Tiger was putting on a clinic everywhere you looked at the API.
The superb short-game from sets up another birdie!#QuickHits pic.twitter.com/3E25vitUoG
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 17, 2018
And don’t forget this bomb from 71 feet that even forced a coy smile from the man himself.
Needless to say, Tiger has proven that his short game is there and he can once again get very hot with the flat stick.
#3 A Few of His Key Stats
As we speak Tiger is rapidly moving up the ranks in some key stats and the trend is indicative of someone primed to win on Sunday. For example, Tiger currently ranks 7th on Tour in Stokes Gained: Total, a stat that is bolstered by his 0.528 Strokes Gained: Around the Green (ranked 7th on Tour) and 0.739 Strokes Gained: Putting (ranked 14th on Tour).
Remember what I said earlier about getting his short game feel back? Well the stats don’t lie.
Tiger Woods Stats
Driving distance 304 yards (8)
Fairways 59% (T66)
GIR 63% (T54)
Prox to hole 36 ft (T31)
Putts distance 239 ft (30)
Off tee -.753 (67)
Approach to green .442 (30)
Around green 1.182 (5)
Tee to green .870 (29)
Strokes gained putting 1.303 (12)
— Ron Mintz (@MintzGolf) March 18, 2018
What is perhaps holding Tiger back most right now is his inconsistency from the tee. Woods’ -0.174 Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee puts him at 148th on Tour in that category. So while Tiger clearly has plenty of power (averaging 304.2 yards in driving distance, which is good for 36th on Tour), his 192nd ranked driving accuracy (51.61%) is a big reason why he’s struggling with things like hitting greens in regulation (174th on Tour) and perhaps even proximity to the hole (64th on Tour).
But then again, even this isn’t all bad, as Tiger ranked 107th, 145th, and and 54th in driving accuracy in the years 2002, 2001, and 2000 respectively. So although it would be nice to see Tiger a little more accurate off the tee, that has never been the key to his wins.
GIR however is an area where I’d like to see some improvement. Back in 2000 and 2002 Tiger ranked first on Tour in this statistic. So given Tiger’s solid putting stats thus far this season, we can certainly derive that if Woods improves his GIR and therefore sees more scoring chances he should slide even further up the leaderboards.
One Final Word
Let’s not forget that Tiger has now finished 5th or better in his last two outings, and both of those finishes came against stacked fields at the Valspar and Arnold Palmer Invitational. One or two more putts dropping could have been the only difference Woods would have needed to grab that comeback win already.
And with the API behind him, what a story it would make if Tiger’s come back win came at Augusta!
Given the amazing strength of talent on the PGA TOUR it’s actually quite amazing to see Tiger collecting top 5 finishes this early into his comeback. Given Woods’ well-known work ethic and competitive spirit it is safe to say that so long as he stays healthy (something he’s taking very seriously now I might add) one can reasonably assume that Tiger will continue to build on his already impressive performances.
So what do you think? Does Tiger have that come back win in him this season? Let me know by leaving a comment below.
Cover Image via Instagram