For being the No. 1 player in the world, Tiger Woods sure hasn’t been playing like it lately.
Granted, after a phenomenal 2013 that saw Woods take back his top ranking with five wins, he hasn’t spent much time on the golf course either. His only appearance on the PGA Tour in 2014, the Farmers Insurance Open, was a massive disappointment by any standards, and although he improved slightly in his trip to Dubai a few weeks ago, he just doesn’t seem to have “it”. Not yet, at least.
Of course, as we all know by now, Woods plans his entire schedule for four weeks a year, and that path begins Thursday at the Honda Classic at PGA National.
I don’t believe that the poor performance we’ve seen from Tiger so far this year is any indicator of what’s to come. Far from it, in fact. But with seven of the top 10 players in the world rankings joining him this week, he’ll have to be at his absolute best to compete.
Woods was originally planning on taking the last two weeks off to go to Sochi to watch his girlfriend, Lindsey Vonn, compete at the Olympics. After she reinjured her knee in training, the key thing to look for this week is whether Woods’s suddenly free time allowed him to get dialed in the way he needs. Specifically, he has to find at least a few fairways if he has any hope of setting up scoring shots. Woods has hit only 18 of 42 fairways on Tour so far this year.
After playing in the Pro-Am on Wednesday, Woods told reporters that he was “pleasantly surprised” at how well he was hitting the ball. He said he spent some time working with coach Sean Foley over the last few weeks, but with so much improvement needed before his break, we’ll have to wait and see if that practice carries over into real tournament action.
The mission is the same now as it always has been for Woods – do whatever it takes to win the majors. The Honda Classic is a far cry from the Masters, but with a challenging setup and an all-star field, this week could give us the best insight into Woods’s game all year.