Sobel: Which Majors Best Suit Tiger Woods’ Game at This Point in His Career?

Sobel: Which Majors Best Suit Tiger Woods’ Game at This Point in His Career? article feature image
Credit:

Ian Rutherford, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Tiger Woods

  • Tiger Woods has said his game hasn't been as sharp since winning his 15th Major at the 2019 Masters.
  • Can Tiger contend at 2019's final major? And which grand slam event best suits his game at this point in his career?

Meeting with the assembled media in the Open Championship interview room on Tuesday, Tiger Woods admitted that winning the Masters this year took a lot out of him and his game isn’t nearly as sharp as he’d like it to be right now.

“I still need to shape the golf ball a little bit better than I am right now,” he said, acknowledging that he’ll need to improve upon flighting the ball for expected winds throughout this week at Royal Portrush.

At least he knows he can do it.

During last year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie, Woods shared the lead on the back-nine, eventually finishing in a share of sixth place, his first top-10 at a major championship in a half-decade.

As he prepares to embark on the year’s final major at Royal Portrush, his last major start as a 43-year-old, let’s examine where Tiger has the best – and worst – chances of claiming his 16th major title and beyond.

1. The Masters

Hey, do you want educated guesses or do you want evidentiary proof?

It might seem like longer, but it was only three months ago when Woods put the cherry on top of one of the most improbable long-term comebacks in sports history, claiming his fifth green jacket.

This came after a litany of setbacks, from four back surgeries to a personal scandal to a highly publicized DUI to simply trying to find his golf swing again.

Let’s face it: If he can return after all of those issues to win at Augusta National, he can win there again now that he’s officially “back.”

2. The Open Championship

It’s no secret that the year’s final major has long been the domain of the elder statesmen.

Forget Tom Watson nearly claiming the Claret Jug again 10 years ago as a 59-year-old. This decade alone, Darren Clarke, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson each won at age 42 and Henrik Stenson won at 40.

This is the one major where power and speed give way to experience and guile. I’m not sure it’ll happen this week, but it’s well within reason to believe Woods can plot and plod his way around a links course to claim another Open Championship title.

If the aforementioned foursome can each do it in their 40s, there’s no reason Tiger can’t, as well.

3. PGA Championship

For years, Woods often proclaimed that he most enjoyed majors where the winning score was single-digits under-par, where it didn’t turn into a birdie-fest on the weekend.

That might have been the case, but he undoubtedly fared better when the score was lower.

In Tiger’s four PGA Championship victories, his winning score was double-digits under-par on three occasions, including a whopping 18-under twice.

He’s a different player than he was for any of those, but it’s certainly conceivable that a soft, wet venue in May leads to a bevy of red numbers at some point, as Woods is the one who relies on radar-like ball-striking to pile up birdies en route to a fifth win.

4. U.S. Open

Not that long ago, this tournament would’ve ranked in the top half of this list, if not first overall.

This used to be the major which rewarded accuracy over distance, the one which gave an advantage to those who missed in the right spots instead of those who tried to overpower the course.

Not anymore.

Just look at the recent winners list: In the last four years, the U.S. Open champions have been Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka (twice) and Gary Woodland. What do they all have in common? They’re all big dudes who not only mash the ball off the tee, but are strong enough to hit precise irons out of the thick rough.

Ten years ago, this type of setup would’ve fit Woods’ game perfectly, but not anymore. That doesn’t mean he can’t win a U.S. Open, it just means that, of the four majors, this is the one he’ll most struggle with at age 44 and beyond.