The Obvious And Not-So Obvious Ways Tiger Woods Can Salvage His 2014


The Obvious And Not-So Obvious Ways Tiger Woods Can Salvage His 2014

June 22, 2014

Win a major

Yeah, pretty obvious, we know. But as was once proclaimed in a Woods Nike ad, "Winning takes care of everything." And at least when it comes to questions about Woods' back, his closing power and his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus, winning either the British Open or the PGA Championship (or hey, why not both?) would go a long way. Granted, this is a lot to ask of a guy who hasn't won a major in six years, and who hasn't played a competitive round in more than three months. Still, as far as ways to salvage a season goes, this would be No. 1 on the list. -- Sam Weinman

Stay healthy

There are already concerns that Tiger is rushing his recovery, and it's easy to see why he would -- Tiger has previously won at each of this year's final two major venues. But it's a dangerous game of roulette he's playing. If it does turn out that Tiger is rushing back, reinjuring himself could have a disastrous effect not just on the rest of his season but, potentially, the rest of his career. With that in mind, making his way through 2014 in one piece would count as a victory.* -- Luke Kerr-Dineen*

Lead the U.S. to a Ryder Cup Win

With just two wins in the last nine matches, the U.S. Ryder Cup team is due for a much-needed jolt. Two years after one of the greatest European comebacks in history, and with a number of big-name American players currently outside the top nine on the points list, an in-form Tiger could be the catalyst for that revival. A Woods-led Ryder Cup win would strengthen a part of his resume that is glaringly weak. -- LKD

Be relevant in a major

Clearly winning either the British Open or PGA Championship would be, well, major for Woods, but simply contending at either would go a long way toward proving he can be considered a threat going forward. Since returning from a 2009 sex scandal, Woods hasn't finished better than T-3 in a major. Specifically, it's his play on the weekends that has held him back. Woods hasn't broken 70 in either of the final two rounds of a major since the 2011 Masters. Being a serious factor down the stretch at one of golf's biggest events would be a big step toward ending a six-year winless drought in them. -- Alex Myers

Qualify for the Tour Championship

Of course, the four FedEx Cup Playoff events don't excite Woods like the four majors, but if he treats them as a major challenge, he could benefit. Woods has work to do just to get into the PGA Tour's postseason. He's currently 209th on the FedEx Cup points list and would have to get into the top 125 to qualify for the Barclays at the end of August. From there, he'd have to keep playing well to earn a spot in the final three events as players get eliminated, something he wasn't able to do in 2010 or 2011. At this point, just making it into the top 30 and into the field in Atlanta would be an impressive accomplishment. * -- AM*

Re-establish his driving edge

At Woods' peak in 2000, he was also at his best with the driver, leading the PGA Tour in total driving. And while many -- including Woods -- began to see the driver as a Woods weakness under Hank Haney, it really wasn't. In his book Every Shot Counts, stats guru Mark Broadie says Woods ranked second, fourth, fourth and eighth in strokes gained/driving from 2005-'08. However, in recent years, Woods' struggles with the driver have caused him to use it less. Hitting more fairway woods off the tee has improved his accuracy, but he only ranked 49th in distance last year and now gives up 20 yards on average to the tour's biggest hitters. That 20 yards in distance equates to .75 of a shot per round for a tour pro, according to Broadie. Therefore, using the remainder of 2014 to get comfortable with hitting more drivers could help Woods gain back his power advantage for 2015.* -- AM*

Regain his putting touch

Reports of Woods' putting woes in recent years have been exaggerated ("He never used to miss putts like that!"), but they can't be overlooked. When the PGA Tour started keeping track of strokes gained/putting in 2004, he was perennially in the top five (and keep in mind, he probably would have had even better numbers when he was at his most dominant). In 2009, Woods ranked No. 2, but since then he hasn't been close to that. In 2013, he had his best putting season since his scandal at No. 22 in SGP. However, he only ranked 52nd on putts inside five feet and just 98th from three to five feet. A bad back has limited his hitting full shots. Hopefully, he's devoted much of that extra time to putting practice in his backyard.* -- AM*

Play more intuitively

A common refrain offered about Woods in recent years is that he has become too "robotic," focusing more on the mechanics of the swing he has constructed under Sean Foley, and not playing enough by instinct. Even if he doesn't win this year, Woods would still position himself well for 2015 if he could get back to playing more by feel. What it doesn't pay in immediate dividends will likely make him more dangerous down the road. -- SW

Soften his public image

For perhaps the first time as a pro, Woods returns to golf as a mostly sympathetic figure, a once dominant player hobbled by injury and struggling to regain his old form. He shouldn't let the goodwill go to waste. In now the third act of his career, Woods can win more fans in ways big and small: responding to kids in the crowd, mentoring young players on tour, allowing the occasional peek into his world as a doting single father. And yes, if another questionable rules scenario arises, Woods would earn a lot of points by proactively penalizing himself. Winning has always been paramount to Woods. But at a point in his career when wins are hard to come by, he'd be wise to show he values more than that. -- SW

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