Tiger Woods was taken to task for suggesting that he won the GTE Byron Nelson Classic in 1997 without his A game (he graded it a C). Now here he is, closing in on a likely 10th PGA Tour Player of the Year award (with or without a major championship on his record), and would anyone argue that he's had his A game this year?
His skill statistics reveal a game held together by his innate ability to get the ball in the hole, whatever the circumstances, better than anyone in history: He ranks tied for 103rd in driving accuracy, 29th in greens in regulation, tied for 95th in proximity to hole, tied for 27th in putts per round.
Only twice in his career has he ranked worse in greens in regulation ( T47th in '04, 30th in '98), and in each of those years he was in the midst of a swing change. In eight of 11 years (excluding 2008, when he played only six tournaments), he has ranked in the top 10 in greens in regulation, five times finishing first.
Yet he leads the tour in earnings ($5,478,163), in scoring average (68.37) and in victories (four). He's won four of his 11 starts and in all likelihood will add to his win total in his five remaining starts (assuming he plays only three of four FedEx Cup playoff events, as he did in '07, plus the WGC Bridgestone Invitational this week and the PGA Championship the following week).
Phil Mickelson could still upend Woods' player of the year bid by winning the PGA Championship (which would be his third victory in '09), and Angel Cabrera, Lucas Glover or Stewart Cink would join the debate were any to win a second major this year.
Woods, meanwhile, is the frontrunner, forging yet another banner year, despite his uneven performances in the major championships. It is even more remarkable considering his eight-month hiatus following knee surgery.
Even his scattershot driving and substandard approach work has not hobbled his genius for scoring. And winning.
-- John Strege
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