Golf Monthly assesses Tiger Woods' latest Major effort, and poses the question: How close is that elusive 15th Major?
Major Drought Continues For Woods But Good Times Lie Ahead
Tiger Woods has not won a Major since the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines. Remember the one, on one leg and all that? Back then, surpassing Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 seemed only a matter of time.
He’s never made a secret of his ambition to rewrite Major history. However, ten years on and he’s no closer to Nicklaus’ number. Can he still do it? It would take a brave person to ask that question in the immediate aftermath of his latest disappointment at Carnoustie, but for as long as he’s competing, it’s a debate that will rumble on.
At the present time – especially given Woods’ trials and tribulations in recent years – it’s not so much ‘Tiger versus Jack’, but whether the 14-time Major winner can add one more to his resume.
If there were any doubts remaining as to whether Woods would win a regular event again, this season’s efforts would appear to have at least put that one to bed. Since making his comeback from major surgery at the Hero World Challenge at the back end of last year, he’s recorded five top-five finishes in 13 tournaments, including a runner-up spot at the Valspar Championship, where he was pipped to the title by Paul Casey.
Understandably he was rusty on his comeback in The Bahamas last year, but he was most definitely a B+ is his own event, despite the small field. Inconsistency has continued into 2018 with a couple of missed cuts – rare beasts where Woods is concerned.
The plaudits dried up when he failed to make the weekend at the Genesis Open in February, but we were singing his praises once again when he come close at the Honda Classic, before his second at the Valspar Championship was followed by tied fifth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
However, Woods has set the bar high, and it wasn’t long before his Major record was back under the spotlight. At Augusta he finished in a tie for 32nd and he missed the cut at the US Open. It was hard to predict which Tiger would turn up at Carnoustie, but he rolled back the years and provided more than enough evidence that he’s close to winning another Major.
His pair of 71s were unspectacular and his safety first strategy attracted criticism, with Woods preferring to plot his way round with long irons. Rarely did the driver make an appearance, but on Saturday he upped the tempo with a five-under 66 to force his way back into contention.
On to Sunday and that momentum continued on the front nine, and he steadily climbed the leaderboard. It was the Woods of old, and when he hit the top it was like being back in the year 2000, a red Tiger on the prowl, all around him his competitors waving white flags.But, as they say, it wasn’t to be. So, can Woods win another Major? On this performance it’s a resounding yes. What will have angered Woods were the mistakes he made on 11 and 12 shortly after he seized control.
The par-4 11th had yielded birdies on all of his previous rounds and gave him an opportunity to stamp his authority on the Championship. He compounded one error with another, and after a bogey on the long 12th, his race was run.
As the wheels go up on his private jet and he heads back across the Atlantic, no doubt he’ll question his conservative strategy. That’s hindsight, of course, and considering his lengthy absence from the game, his bid for a 15th Major at Carnoustie was more than impressive.Good times lie ahead for Woods. Will he win another Major? Well, on Carnoustie’s evidence, it’s looking like number 15 isn’t too far away. He’s getting closer.
Woods may have come up a fraction short this week, but he at least had the comfort of a long embrace with his two children when he came off the 18th.
“I told them I tried and I said, ‘Hopefully you’re proud of your pops for trying as hard as I did,’” revealed Woods.
“It’s pretty emotional because they gave me some pretty significant hugs there and squeezed. I know that they know how much this Championship means to me and how much it feels good to be back playing again.”