PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – So much for all the talk that Tiger Woods’ “aura of invincibility” has disappeared.
Inside the ropes, Woods remains as intimidating as ever.
With his win Sunday at The Players, Woods has now shot the low score in the final-round group in each of his last 22 victories.
In fact, during those Tiger wins, only twice in the last decade has a player carded a better score while playing in the same group as Woods on Sunday – Chris DiMarco at the 2005 Masters (Tiger won in a playoff) and Brett Wetterich in ’07 at Doral (Tiger won by two).
OK, so maybe his fellow playing competitors were nervous.
Maybe they felt inferior.
Maybe it was just a coincidence that they didn’t play to their potential.
Or maybe they were distracted by the horde of media members, or rowdy, pro-Tiger crowds.
“It’s tough being in the final group with Tiger just because there is a lot more attention on you,” Brandt Snedeker said.
On Sunday at Sawgrass, Casey Wittenberg was paired with Woods for the fourth time in the past year. Last year’s Web.com Tour money winner carded a 75 to Woods’ 70 and finished T-8, six shots behind.
That continued a yearlong trend: In Woods’ four victories this season, no player in his group has carded an under-par score in the final round.
“This job is stressful regardless of whether you’re playing with Tiger or not,” Wittenberg said. “I’ve been on the wrong side of some really great golf by Tiger this year, but it’s been nice to be in the group and learn from it.”
Consider this: In the events Woods has won – at Torrey Pines, Doral, Bay Hill and now Sawgrass – he has compiled a final-round scoring average of 70.75. His opponents, meanwhile, averaged 73.8.
Last year in his wins, Woods had a final-round scoring average of 68.25, while his opponents posted a mark of 72.67.
It has been said and written by some that Woods’ injuries and scandal erased his aura of invincibility, that the young players who have burst onto the scene since Thanksgiving 2009 – Rory McIlroy, Keegan Bradley and Rickie Fowler, to name a few – were no longer intimidated because they didn’t wear the scars of having faced Tiger in his prime.
It remains as difficult as ever to play with Woods on Sunday and succeed. Just look at the last decade.
From 2003-2009 – pre-scandal – Woods’ final-round scoring average in wins was 67.91, while his opponents posted a mark of 72.33.
In the last two years, when Woods has won a combined seven times (and counting), his Sunday scoring average in wins is 69.5. His opponents’ average scores during those final rounds: 71.18.
For whatever reason – nerves, bad luck, intimidation – Woods keeps gaining the upper hand, 22 consecutive wins and counting.