Punch Shot: Wasted season for Woods?


PITTSFORD, N.Y. – Tiger Woods has won five times on Tour this year, but he didn't win a major. Is this a wasted season for Woods? The GolfChannel.com team weighs in.


Don’t confuse expectations with exceptional performances. This isn’t about Tiger Woods’ quest to reach 18 majors, a desolate stretch that has now reached a half decade and counting. This is about whether 2013 is better left forgotten for the world No. 1, and the answer is absolutely not.

If you forget for a moment that any week Woods doesn’t win is reason to micro-analyze and that for better or worse his destiny is measured one Grand Slam at a time, then 2013 was a career year by nearly every measure.

Five victories in just 12 starts pushed him back atop the World Golf Ranking and into the pole position for the FedEx Cup crown and Player of the Year honors. Despite all the nitpicking, Woods’ season is statistically superior to some of his best campaigns. He ranks 52nd in driving accuracy, the best he’s been in six seasons, 20th in greens in regulation, fourth in strokes gained-putting and eighth in total driving.

Some suggest Woods only wins on friendly confine layouts – old haunts like Bay Hill, Torrey Pines and Firestone. As if a quality victory should be cheapened by familiarity.

Each of Woods’ victories this season has been by multiple-strokes – two shots at Bay Hill, Doral and TPC Sawgrass along with his four-stroke victory at Torrey Pines and his seven-shot walk-off at Firestone. That’s a 3.4-stroke winning average.

No, 2013 wasn’t a lost season, it was a career year even if your name is Tiger Woods.


No, of course this isn't a wasted season for Tiger Woods.

I understand the insinuation. Woods has repeatedly stated that the four majors are what mean the most to him and without winning one, this certainly can't be classified as one of his better years.

But if the other tournaments didn't mean anything at all, he wouldn't play them. He already owns five victories with a legit chance at seven or eight by season's end. For some players – for some very good, established players – that's an entire career.

These wins shouldn't be banished to the scrap heap simply because he didn't follow any of them with a major.

Last year was the year that Woods got his career back on track. This year was the year he continued pushing forward, winning more and becoming No. 1 once again. He often talks about progress. Perhaps this progression will lead to more major wins next year and beyond.

And that is as good a reason as any why this wasn't a wasted year for him. 


A “wasted” year? Well, that’s a bit harsh. You can’t win five times, all in marquee events, and call the season an unmitigated disaster.

But there’s little doubt that Woods will look back on the 2013 majors without wondering what could have been. What if he hadn’t hit that flagstick at Augusta? What if he had better adjusted to the greens at Muirfield? What if he had been able to carry over his Firestone form to the PGA?

Woods has been the undisputed No. 1 player in the game for the better part of this season, yet he has nothing to show for it at the majors, just as he hasn’t since June 2008. His stockpiling of regular-season titles has been swell, but it’s worth noting that his eight victories in the past 18 months have all come on venues that he’s enjoyed prior success. You’d have to go back to the 2008 WGC-Match Play, at The Gallery at Dove Mountain, for his last victory at a previously unconquered track.

That’s encouraging news for 2014, then, seeing how Woods has good memories at each of the major venues: a four-time winner at Augusta (though not since ’05), a T-3 and solo second in two major trips to Pinehurst, a victory in ’06 at Hoylake and the 2000 PGA title at Valhalla. If Tiger can’t pick off one of those four majors, it’s reasonable to wonder when he ever will.


Yes, it was a wasted year for Tiger Woods. Hard to believe, isn't it?

He's as close to Sam Snead as ever in career victories, but after a fifth consecutive year without a major, Woods is as far away from Jack Nicklaus' major record as he was 61 months ago. That's not progress. Not by Woods' lofty standards.

During this major pursuit Woods just cannot throw away full years without a victory. Two WGC wins and a Players victory are great. I get it. Really, I do. It's a career for anyone not named Woods or Phil Mickelson. But, as important as those victories are, they won't be what Woods will be most remembered for at the end of his career.

Woods will pass Snead on the all-time victories list and that alone will put him in the conversation with Nicklaus for best player in the history of the game. But Woods didn't want to beat Snead when he was 5 years old growing up in California; he only wanted to be better than Nicklaus – and 18 was, and still is, the only number that matters. Since Woods is no closer to 18 now than he was a year ago, this year cannot be considered a success.


Though he certainly holds himself to the loftiest of standards, it’s unfair to call the 2013 season a waste for Tiger Woods. Five wins (so far), two WGCs and a Players title among them, with an ascent back to the top of the world rankings to boot. Hardly a misspent summer.

If you want to suggest that a season can’t be “great” without a major, that’s fine. But there’s a sizeable divide between “great” and “waste,” a gap in which falls this highly successful campaign, as well as years for Woods like 2003 and 2009, seasons which included five and six wins, respectively, but yielded no major titles.

Even should he win the season-long FedEx Cup, this year will still be marked for Woods by his major-less drought that will now extend into a sixth season. That shouldn’t demean or belittle the accomplishments he’s had in other events throughout the year, though, where he has time and again shown flashes of his former dominant self. If Tiger’s season is a “waste,” I shudder to think what words would be used to describe the years of players like Keegan Bradley and Henrik Stenson, who have both “only” accrued a litany of top finishes against world-class fields, each racking up more than $3 million in earnings without hoisting a single trophy.


If you’re judging Tiger Woods’ season solely by the majors, you can call this a failed season, but hardly a wasted one.

It’s failed because when you’re chasing history, there are four winners every major championship season and everyone else is a loser. History is ruthless like that. This is hardly a wasted season, though, because Woods is remembering how to win with some regularity again. It’s productive in that the winning habit gives hope it soon extends to the majors again. Hope’s only wasted if it’s aim ultimately isn't realized.