With his win at the Masters, Tiger’s comeback seems complete. But is the Big Cat truly back? To answer that — and to glean his odds of claiming another major at the PGA Championship (May 16-19) or U.S. Open (June 13-16) — we’ve charted New Tiger against the three Classic Tigers of his peak seasons. Let’s fire up the wayback machine!
At more than 299 yards off the tee, Woods is almost five yards longer than he was in his first full season. But don’t be fooled. Courses — and his competitors — are far longer than they were 22 years ago. (Consider: In 1996, the PGA Tour average off the tee was 268 yards. So far this season: 293 yards. Don’t look back, old man. The field has gained 25 yards on you.)
Still, despite dinking it around off the tee, Tiger’s ability to earn himself birdie putts remains unrivaled. How? ‘Cause he’s still an artist with a long iron in his hands — ranking third on Tour in approaches from 200 yards or longer.
So he’s still hitting greens. Still getting birdie putts. The problem with all those birdie putts? Not making ’em! To wit: Woods is now 204th on Tour in three-putt avoidance. And the same man who once sank a remarkable 1,537 of 1,540 putts of three feet or less now ranks 208th from that length. Not good!
The inevitable result of all that you’ve just read: Tiger, who once ate par 5s for lunch, is barely snacking on them this season. Where he is feasting hard? The Tour’s par 3s, where Woods is first in scoring this year. (Worth repeating — do not get in a battle of irons with this year’s Tiger Woods.)
Lastly, Tiger now stinks in first rounds. (One theory: His balky back demands a reduced schedule, which means he’s knocking off rust in early rounds.) Despite that, he’s still sixth on Tour in overall scoring. The result: These days, Eldrick the Elder is often playing catch-up, just like he did at Augusta. So our prediction for this week’s PGA Championship? Buckle in for another Sunday charge.