Since then, well, Tiger didn't do too well at the Masters, tying for 40th, nor did he improve at the next two tournaments, the Wells Fargo (missed cut), or the Players Tour Championship (T40). Driving accuracy, putting, sand saves, all relapsed to 2010-2011 form, or lack of it. Ball striking plummeted.
Just prior to this year's Masters I'd speculated about the various meanings one might assign to Tiger's performance in it. For a variety of reasons, I didn't think much meaning could be assigned; of course, a win there was a deal breaker. As it turned out, Tiger endured a Masters-induced collapse that plagued his next two tournaments.
And then, of course, after all that failure, he won the Golden Bear's Memorial Tournament for the fifth time in mid May. That's why I shy away from prediction. Nearly every measure improved markedly, and then again, we all wondered, "Is it time to believe?" After all, he'd now won three times in 2012, twice on the PGA tour. What a start! The season, like a roller coaster ride, with high highs, and low lows, but those exciting highs were familiar, and they felt real this time. Goodbye 2010, sayonara 2011.
And now we arrive at the U.S. Open, at the Olympic Golf Club in San Francisco. No predictions here, although he certainly appeared well in control at the Memorial, quite good enough to win at Olympic. Will he climb back to his perch on the golf version of Mount Olympus? As I say, no predictions here., but if he's in the top five on Saturday, and doesn't suffer one of his noticeably poor third rounds, well then . . .
Below are five charts I cobbled together that summarize Tiger's improvements since 2010, and for the period between the Masters and the U.S. Open. Here you go! You make your prediction, I'll just sit in front of my t.v. with a summer sausage and a lemonade, and watch.
(1) Record from the 2012 Masters to the U.S. Open. Sandwiched between his wins at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Jack Nicklaus's Memorial, were three tournaments that resembled Tiger's 2010-2011 walkabout (or worse, in 2010 and 2011, he tied for 4th at the Masters, in 2012, a dismal T40). He didn't make the cut at the Wells Fargo in early May. T40 at the Players Tour Championship, not one of Tiger's better venues, rounded out a period of worry for Tiger, perhaps, but for Tiger's fans, for sure. The came the Memorial and his fist-punching win.
(2) How Striking Is His Ball Striking? To see where he was then and where he is now, let's look at the PGA statistic called "Ball Striking." Computed by totaling a player's rank in both Total Driving and Greens in Regulation (GIR), it's among the more telling golf data. Tiger is now, prior to the U.S. Open this week, number 1 in Total Driving and number 7 in GIR, resulting in a total of 8, thereby earning him his Ball Striking rank of first in the PGA.
Compare this to his 2010-2011 rankings where he ranked, shall we say, poorly? 2010-2011 rankings bespeak his swing problems as he worked to rebuild his swing amidst injuries and distractions that, let's face it, he created. His 2012 ranking, though, indicates successful transition to new swing mechanics, yet inconsistency is still very apparent (see chart above). In the U.S. Open, therefore, Tiger could just as easily descend into the basement, as he could rise to the penthouse, there does not seem to be much of a middle ground . . .
(3) Let's now focus on this year. Where does Tiger lead the field? This chart highlights the skills where his PGA Tour rankings are in the top two. One of the more interesting improvements is Tiger's par three birdie percentage, it's never been higher (although, of course, the 2012 season is still in its early stages). Yet, he has rarely been among the top ten in that category. The only other birdie percentage that was near to his present one was - portentously? - in 2000, and that three month period when he won three majors. Ironically, rather than par three's, most of us think of his dominance of the par five's, yet he's rarely among the leaders in that category, this year he's ranked 79th, with a 4.53 scoring average. I was quite surprised by this.
By the way,
he's 3rd in Scoring Average (69.42); Approaches from 175-200 yards (31'1"); and Average Going for it Shot Distance (in Yards) (238.4) [see chart for "What the heck is 'going for it yards'?"](4) Finally, we'll look at some data that demonstrates Tiger's 2010-2012 progress. It's clearly remarkable. Yet, the inconsistency still persists. Note the marked decline in his success between the Masters and this pre-U.S. Open report, especially in sand save %, putts gained through putting, and his scoring average. Tat bad patch from the Masters through the Players Tour Championship afflicted quite a bit of damage. Yet, as I've written above, and then he won the Memorial.
He's fourth in All-Around Ranking (averages ranking in eight categories, like GIR, sand saves, eagles, and strokes gaained by putting); and Approaches from > 275 yards (49'9")
He's fifth in Approaches from > 200 yards (44'10")
After the U.S. Open I'll have a look at Tiger's progress.
Check back here in a week or so!
Until then, to read other Tiger posts,
just click "Tiger Woods" in the tags section below.