After have four back surgeries in four years, Tiger Woods finally won for the first time since 2013, bringing the champion back to the podium. His following victories at the 2018 TOUR Championship and 2019 Masters capped off what is considered as one of the greatest comebacks in sports history; which leaves us with a burning question. What’s next for one of the most legendary golfers of all time?
On October 28, 2019, Tiger Woods secured his 82nd win at the Zozo Championship, tying him with Sam Snead for the most all-time. He has since only played in two tournaments: the Hero World Challenge, a tournament he hosts, and the Farmer’s Insurance Open . In both starts, Tiger finished within the top 10. Though, he seems to be unable to secure the win that he needs.
So what’s standing in the way? The biggest obstacle he needs to overcome is the difference in the game.
Before his surgeries, Tiger was consistently the longest hitter in any field. In an interview preceding the Farmer’s Insurance Open held at Torrey Pines (one of Tiger’s favorite courses; he has 8 wins at the venue), Tiger said:
“I don’t have the ability to hit the ball as far as I used to compared to the field. I was one of two guys to hit the ball over 300 yards consistently when I first came out here. Now we’ve got 50-plus guys doing the same thing… Its a different ballgame”
– Tiger Woods via PGA Tour
Its displayed by average driving distance. When Tiger broke out onto the tour in 1997, John Daly became the first player to hit the ball over 300 yards. The tour average? A meek 268 yards.
21 years later, the tour average is now 295 yards, with Troy Mullinax’s 318-yard drive topping the charts. With the clear change in driving distance, Tiger needs a new strategy for success. His new approach involves pinpoint iron play and strong short game.
But it’s not easy for anyone to change their game plan just like that. That’s the main reason why he has only had two wins since his comeback from surgery in 2017.
And it’s not just different players getting in the way. The courses the PGA Tour uses are changing too. When Tiger first broke onto the scene in 1997, Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters, was just 6,925 yards. By 2010, the course had been lengthened to 7,435 yards. His last Masters win in 2019 saw a course that has since been lengthened another 60 yards to 7,495 yards, and there is talk about further expansion.
Tiger is an amazing athlete with an incredible amount of talent and dedication for the game of golf. He has shown that hard work can really pay off ($1.5 billion in winnings?). By the age of 44, he has done what only one golfer has done in their entire career: reach 82 wins. He’s set record after record, but he now has his eyes set on one: the ever-so-elusive 83rd PGA Tour victory.
P/C: Business Insider