From being unable to participate in tournaments due to a lengthy unfortunate sequence of injuries coupled with recurrent back pain necessitating four surgeries in four years, Tiger Woods is currently on an astonishing 16 tournaments run this year.
The last time he hit a number this high was in 2013 when he took back the No. 1 ranking to push for an unprecedented number one rank total of 683 weeks—a world record. But Woods is nowhere near the top five this year.
His surge from #1199 in December 2017 to #26 in August 2018 is every bit as exciting as it sounds. However, his output has been shaky and he has struggled to find consistency. This week, he had a putter in the bag; last week it was a different shaft. It is highly unusual for top players of the sport to make such sudden changes without adequate preparation and practice.
And that’s the dilemma. Everyone needs to practice, even if you’re up there in the pantheon of the greatest to swing a club. Not to mention the need to rest, recuperate, and charge up for another go. Woods apparently can’t find the time to do any of these; and it may unsurprisingly be affecting his game negatively.
“What I’m trying to figure out is how much to practice,” Woods said on Friday at the Dell Technologies Championship. “I want to work on certain things, but I shouldn’t do it. And when I do work on things I’ve got to pick which part of the game to work on.”
“I can’t do it all like I used to do. I have to pick certain parts. And certain days to work on different things. And really pace myself through. This is a lot of golf here that I’ve played of late.”
Woods last had two weeks off in early July between the Quicken Loans National (he tied fourth) and The Open (he tied sixth). Even though he had scheduled a vacation after The Open, he went on to play at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. The following week he finished second at the final-round push at the PGA Championship.
He had the option to take the much-needed break by skipping a playoff event and still have a decent chance of making the Tour Championship. Instead, he took the alternative route to participate in the Northern Trust, which in hindsight wasn’t a good idea.
He finished tied for 40th and in his remarks questioned his decision to take part.
“Some of the guys who skipped last week … it might have been a smart move,” he said. His ranking fell from 20th to 25th even though he played. In comparison, Rory McIlroy had a 21st to 27th drop while he took the week off.
This was a telltale sign that it is about time to hit the brakes. Needless to say, Wood’s itinerary doesn’t appear to have any significant off period in the coming weeks.
He has qualified for the BMW Championship scheduled for next week. He could very well qualify for the 30-player Tour Championship. And he could be picked to play in the Ryder Cup that’s to hold from September 28 through 30 in Paris. Put together, he could potentially participate in eight tournaments within an 11-week stretch.
McIlroy echoed the thought of many when he said, “Everyone needs to give him time because you’re not going to be the same person or player after four back surgeries and after everything he’s dealt with. I think what he’s done is phenomenal.”
Nevertheless, Woods intends to march on. And as he does so, it is crucial that he continually tinkers and finds time to practice. He may well have to adapt as the energy of his heydays are in the rearview mirror. He openly admits, “Then I would go work out when I got home. And maybe go for a light jog. And that’s where it has really, really changed. I can’t do those things anymore, not like that. Not that volume. And I just have to pace myself.”
Easier said than done it seems. Still, it’d be unwise to put it past him. If there’s anyone who could make it work, it’s the Phoenix who adjusted a bone that had popped out of his wrist at the Masters in 2015 so he could finish the round.