So we asked our panel of writers: If his season ended today, what would you remember most from Tiger Woods’ season?
By RYAN LAVNER
In a year with no shortage of Tiger-related controversies – or emphatic victories – his drop in the second round of the Masters resonates still.
Fairly or not – I’d argue the latter – that singular moment has trumped his best-ever start to a season.
What began simply as chat-room buzz morphed into a full-blown controversy, with every story an opinion, every sound bite a headline. The incident featured all the necessary elements of an epic golf controversy: the star player, the year’s biggest major, a buttoned-up club, bungled calls, cries of favoritism and misplaced priorities. Did Tiger receive a favorable ruling? Should he have done the honorable thing and withdraw? What about his race to catch Jack? The story was delicious, no doubt. But ultimately it seemed an unfair burden for one man to bear.
It’s a shame, too. For the past 13 months Tiger has played brilliant golf, winning seven times in his last 22 starts. But unless he soon pads his major total, Woods’ year is destined to be remembered for the one tournament he didn’t win, largely because of a debated penalty.
By WILL GRAY
Were it to end today, the thing I’d most remember from Tiger’s 2013 season is the return of the “air.”
Not necessarily the air of invincibility seen during his peak – the heights reached in 2000-2001 will likely never again be matched. But still, Woods’ success this season has rekindled sentiments from years ago: the thought, for instance, that top-tier players enter rounds or entire events knowing that Woods must somehow falter to even have a chance at victory. The notion, especially at Torrey Pines and Doral, that the outcome of the event was known long before the final putt dropped. The general consensus that Woods’ next major win is not a matter of “if,” but rather “when.”
A wise man once said, “Don’t call it a comeback; I’ve been here for years.” While fans and writers alike can debate the depths to which Woods’ game once fell – and whether or not the 14-time major champion ever truly left – the fact remains that with four wins under his belt before the calendar hits June, the “air” is back for Tiger Woods.
By REX HOGGARD
His Farmers Insurance Open victory was textbook, as were those walk-offs at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and Arnold Palmer Invitational. But if Tiger Woods’ season ended today, it would be his two-stroke triumph at The Players that would stand out.
For the record, Woods had a combined 17 victories at Torrey Pines, Doral and Bay Hill (counting the 2006 and ’05 Ford Championships at Doral and 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines), while Sunday’s tilt at TPC Sawgrass was just his second victory on the Stadium Course as a professional.
The Players was an enigma for Woods, through health and illness, solid play and slumps. Before last week, Pete Dye’s devilish design made Woods look, well . . . un-Woods-like.
He was 1-for-15 entering the week, hadn’t posted a top-10 finish in a decade and had last hoisted the crystal chalice in 2001. Truth is, in his last three starts at the PGA Tour’s flagship event he’d made it to the weekend just once following injury-induced withdrawals in 2010 and ’11.
It’s why last week’s victory was every bit the signature triumph, a ball-striking masterpiece that featured just one driver on Sunday, 55 of 72 greens in regulation (third in the field) and a par-5 scorecard of 12 under par. He finished at 13 under par.
All victories are to be cherished, but after a 12-year wait, this one was special.
By RANDALL MELL
Even when Tiger Woods wins in bundles, he can’t win.
I mean that in the sense that the scrutiny on him is so intense there seems always to be something for somebody not to like in his game. Woods has won four times this season, but every time he tees it up, we do an autopsy on the performance. We analyze his drop at Abu Dhabi, his drop at the Masters, his drop at The Players, his uneasy interactions with Sergio Garcia, his skipping Los Angeles again, his skipping Wells Fargo . . . Every notable step is a headline.
When you are the most recognizable and successful athlete on the planet, the scrutiny comes with the territory. Enormous fame and enormous riches have that price. And when you’ve created a standard of success never before reached, you’re plagued with the expectation of continuing to meet the standard. It’s all part of the bargain. It all drives interest in the game. It also must drive Woods crazy sometimes. That’s what I would remember about this year if it ended today.