Tiger Woods is back, but are major championships now out of his reach?

Tiger Woods during second round play at the 2017 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. Image courtesy of golfweek.com

The wait is finally over. Tiger Woods has returned to playing competitive professional golf again after starting in the Farmers Insurance Open on the PGA Tour and the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on the European Tour. These two starts came for Woods after being sidelined for over a year following back surgery. At last, it seemed like the golfing world (including huge Tiger Woods fans like me) got what it had been longing for.

Woods, who is a 14-time major champion and a winner of 79 PGA tour events, is regarded as one of the most successful golfers of all time. However, this past success didn’t show recently as Woods struggled immensely and missed the cut in both his starts since coming back from surgery. To make things even worse, Tiger also added another injury to his long list of past afflictions as he was forced to withdraw from the Dubai Desert Classic with back spasms. This unfortunate series of events for Tiger is something that I, like most fans, had not hoped for.

During Tiger’s surgery recovery period there were many questions raised by golf fans and pundits alike regarding his future performance. Out of all the questions that I was exposed to from sources that included various golf media outlets like Golf Channel and Golf Digest, there was one main question that stuck with me:

Will Tiger Woods be able to win a major championship again?

I think that I can speak for most golf fans when I say that we all would definitely like to see Tiger back in his prime and winning majors. I’d love to see Tiger back at it, hitting shots like his chip-in at 16 at the 2005 Masters that propelled him to a playoff victory or his putt on 18 at the 2008 U.S. Open that forced a Monday playoff that he would go on to win. These two shots by Tiger are shots that will never be forgotten as they are some of the most famous in the history championship golf and truly embody Tiger when he was in his prime.

Tiger’s chip-in at the 16th hole at the 2005 Masters Tournament
Tiger’s putt on the 18th hole at the 2008 U.S. Open

Nevertheless, there is a big difference in what I would like to see from Tiger in future majors and what I actually think will happen. As much as I want Tiger to be back in his zone winning majors, I do not believe that he will be able to do so again. For me, this belief is further supported after seeing Tiger play very poorly and pick up an injury in the two official competitive starts he has made since returning from surgery.

In looking at Tiger’s recent struggles with competitive professional golf as a whole, I have found that there are four key reasons why he will have an extremely hard time trying to win a major. In total, I believe that Tiger’s injuries, age, current performance level, and competition are all contributors that add up to why I don’t think the Big Cat will be able to pull off another major victory.

The following paragraphs detail the reasons why I don’t believe Tiger will win another major championship (although I hope he someday proves me wrong). Evidence is provided for each reason I give and I hope that readers of this post will share their thoughts and opinions on this topic in the comments section below.

Injuries

Tiger Woods falls to the ground in pain after injuring his back in the 2014 Arnold Palmer Invitational. Image courtesy of golfunfiltered.com

Tiger Woods’ career has been riddled by a multitude of injuries. In all, Woods has suffered injuries to his left knee, achilles, left and right ankles, neck, elbow, and back. These injuries aren’t simple sprains or soreness either. In fact, the back injury that Woods just returned from that forced him to miss over a year of competitive play was so serious that it even caused Tiger to fear that he’d never be able to play golf again. Furthermore, as mentioned above, after only his second start back from surgery Tiger has just added another back injury to his career injury list as he withdrew from the Omega Dubai Desert Classic before the second round after experiencing back spasms. This characteristic body fragility is not a good sign for Tiger as he will have to be able to play a lot more if he wants to prepare for majors. It is tough for any athlete to come back from an injury and for Tiger this will be even tougher as his body has already accumulated plenty of damage from injuries he sustained earlier in his career.

Age

Tiger Woods shows his frustration and fatigue after shooting well over par and missing the cut at the 2015 U.S. Open. Image courtesy of fastphillysports.com

Now at 41 years of age, Tiger Woods is considered “old” on the PGA tour. In golf, as with any sport, it is common for most individuals to not perform as well as they get older. This can be shown clearly in golf as the average age of all major champions throughout professional golf history is 32 years old. This puts Woods well past the age of most major champions. Additionally, if Woods were to continue to play for another 10 years (which he may need to do if he ever wants to catch or surpass Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 major championships), his odds of winning a major are slim as there have only been two golfers (Jack Nicklaus and Julius Boros) that have won majors past the age of 46. So while Tiger may be gaining experience as he gets older, his chances of winning a major are diminishing based on history.

Current Performance

Tiger Woods is forced to play his shot out of a bunker after missing a green during first round play at the 2017 Farmers Insurance Open. Image courtesy of golfweek.com

Given Woods’ performance in his two starts after coming off his back surgery I would say that he has a ton of work to do in terms of improving his game if he even wants a shot at winning a PGA tour event, let alone a major championship. This is most evident in the fact that Tiger missed the cut in both events he competed in. Just looking at his stats from the Farmers Insurance Open, Tiger really struggled with his driver (driving accuracy[1] of 50%) and hitting greens in regulation[2] (GIR) (hit 55.56% of GIR). Compare this with the winner of the event, Jon Rahm, who had a driving accuracy of 60.71% and hit 73.61% of GIR. Unfortunately, to make Tiger look even worse, it can’t be left out that Rahm played twice as many rounds as him as Rahm didn’t miss the cut. With two missed cuts in two starts for Tiger, a total overhaul of his golf game is going to be required if he wants to claim a major championship.

Competition

Tiger Woods teeing it up with Jordan Spieth during a competitive round. Image courtesy of ftw.usatoday.com

In terms of the competition he is up against, Tiger Woods couldn’t be returning to the game of golf at a worse time. Young starts below the age of 30 are on full display each tournament and have a huge amount of recent success. Examples of this include 23-year-old Jordan Spieth (9-time PGA tour winner), 27-year-old Rory McIlroy (13-time PGA tour winner), and 29-year-old Jason Day (10-time PGA tour winner). In terms of majors, the three golfers previously mentioned have a combined total of 7. If Tiger ever wants to be crowned a major champion again, he will not only have to master his own game, but beat out a ridiculously high level of competition.


Will Tiger Woods be able to win a major championship again? We will just have to wait and see. As much as I look forward to the Big Cat putting on the green jacket, kissing the U.S. Open Trophy, receiving the claret jug, or lifting up the Wanamaker Trophy, I just don’t think he ever will again. To me, Tiger Woods is now past his prime and his injuries, age, current performance level, and competition will definitely not make it any easier for him to get back to the Tiger he once was.

Please feel free to leave a comment below with your thoughts and opinions on whether you think Tiger Woods will be able to win another major championship. I hope to generate plenty of dialogue about this issue as I am curious to see what others think about Tiger’s future.

[1] Driving accuracy is measured by the number of fairways hit out of total number of drives

[2] Green in regulation (GIR) is getting the ball on the green in in at least two strokes lower than par on a hole