SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Tiger Woods doesn’t have to be honest with us, but if he’s going to break out of this slump he’s going to have to be honest with himself.
Does he really believe he’s finally moving in the right direction?
Moments after missing the cut Saturday at the PGA Championship, he insisted he is.
“The confidence is growing quickly,” Woods said. “That’s the fun part. I’m able to hit shots that I haven’t been able to hit in years, and that’s nice again. To have that control I need to have going forward, it’s starting to come back, which is nice.”
Does he really believe that? It’s a fair question to ask given his 2014-15 PGA Tour season might have ended here at Whistling Straits with his third consecutive missed cut in a major. If he doesn’t follow through on a commitment to play the Wyndham Championship next week – and he was uncertain Saturday morning whether he would – then he has no chance of qualifying for the FedEx Cup Playoffs. His PGA Tour season would be done. The majors, the events that always mattered most to him, are behind him, too.
Where does Woods go from here? It all depends on if he really believes what he’s telling us.
If Woods believes his swing’s coming around, his control and confidence are coming back, there’s no need to regroup yet again. There’s no need to scrap what he’s working on or who he’s working with. But if he doesn’t believe what he’s telling us, he’s at another crossroads. There’s yet another new direction to plot, another new beginning to make. There’s also failure to acknowledge in his work with Chris Como.
If Woods doesn’t believe he’s on the right path, he’s right back to square one.
He’s still lost.
At his best, what Woods believed always mattered more than what anybody else believed about his game. In his world, attitude was more important than facts. His will trumped them.
In the game’s biggest events, the facts have never stacked up so formidably against his beliefs.
What he believes to be true about his work with Como still isn’t showing up in his results.
Tiger posted a 75 Thursday in the opening round at Whistling Straits and finished up a 73 in Saturday’s conclusion of the suspended second round.
That’s three consecutive missed cuts in major championships. That’s four missed cuts in his last five majors. The man didn’t miss four cuts in majors through his first 17 years as a professional. He’s also now posted seven consecutive rounds without breaking par in the majors. That’s also a first in his career.
Woods is 22-over par in the majors this year. Jordan Spieth is 43 under so far.
That stat may rank as the most revealing in how far Woods is from where he wants to be.
In 10 starts this year, Woods has failed to finish half of them, missing the cut in four and withdrawing in another.
There hasn’t been a single top 10 this year.
From his battle at year’s start with serious chipping woes, to a back issue at the Farmers Insurance Open, there have been few bright moments to build upon, but Woods is seizing on what he says he’s feeling.
“So far, 10 events this year, obviously it's a very small sample, but I'm pleased at the way I'm starting to hit the golf ball,” Woods said before leaving Whistling Straits. “Now, if I can start putting like I did today, or what I did at Quicken Loans a couple weeks ago, start putting like that, then we got something.”
If Woods believes that, maybe we will see him at the Wyndham next week.
If Woods is going to make the FedEx Cup playoffs, he probably has to win in Greensboro, N.C., to have a chance. That’s a lot of pressure for a man searching for his game. The field there will be weak, and Sedgefield Country Club doesn’t seem to particularly suit him, but he will meet with his team over the next couple days to decide if he will play.
Woods doesn’t see this PGA Tour season marking an end to what he’s working toward.
“I think it's more just building,” Woods said. “People keep asking me this week: Is it your season? No, it's not really about the season, it's about the year.”
Bottom line, it’s about knowing what he believes is real.