124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2


Tiger Woods' handicap index history is as amazing as you'd imagine—but his peak year might surprise you

June 04, 2020

It's been a long time since Tiger Woods had an official USGA handicap index. When you post scores in front of millions of people on a regular basis, there's not quite the need to also post them at your home club. But that doesn't mean it still can't be figured out. And one man has done just that.

Statistician Lou Stagner, one of the minds behind DECADE Golf, went through all of Tiger's scores as a pro. Using course rating and slope for each course, he computed a differential for each round and kept a running tally of what Tiger's index would have been at the time (Keep in mind that a golfer's index only takes into account his most recent 20 scores).

Not surprisingly, the results are eye-popping—especially when you consider these scores don't factor in tournament conditions, something Stagner points out in this tweet:

As you can see, Woods' average index for a quarter century is +6.7 and he maintained an index of +7.0 or above for more than a third of that time. Not too shabby.

Of course, golf fans are well aware of how good Tiger Woods is at golf. But this shows just how good. It also shows Woods was at his best in 2008 with a +9.4 index—and not 2000 when he won nine PGA Tour titles, inclduding three majors.

That might come as a shock to some, but again, these indexes aren't for an entire season, but rather 20-round snapshots taken throughout. Also, who knows how many times Tiger would have won in 2008 if not for injuries. Following his U.S. Open win at Torrey Pines, Woods underwent reconstructive surgery on his left knee and sat out the remainder of the season. He won four times in six starts that year, and finished runner-up and fifth in his other two tournaments. Here's a better look at these indexes:

In 2015, Golf Digest had Dean Knuth, former Senior Director of Handicapping for the USGA, figure out Woods' index following his career-worst round of 85 at the Memorial. Knuth concluded Woods was still a +5.9 during his slump (of course, that 85 wouldn't count). He also said Woods "never dropped below +10 during the entire year" in 2000, but he was accounting for tournament setups.

Whether 2000 or 2008 or that seven-tournament winning streak from the end of 2006 to 2007 was Woods' best golf is a debate that will continue. What is clear, though, is that Tiger has played a lot of good golf for a long time. And if you ever played with him, he'd be giving you a LOT of strokes.