Has Tiger lost his nerve in major championships?

June 17, 2013 | Drew Forrester

I know he’s had some physical issues.  His move to instructor Sean Foley was done in large part because Foley’s teaching theory of flattening the club out and standing up through the shot puts less stress on Tiger’s back and neck, two issues that bothered him late in the last decade.  It’s tough to play great golf when you’re physically challenged, and even though he hasn’t used injuries as an excuse, per-se, there’s no doubt in my mind Tiger hasn’t been 100% healthy over the last few years.

There’s also the obvious personal drama that he created in 2009.  That whole fiasco obviously took its toll on him mentally, although he’s never really admitted to such.

More than anything, though, it could just be as simple as what John Elliott hinted to me in 2006.  Even a great player like Tiger Woods can lose his confidence.  All it takes is one bad experience.

If you’re sizing up a 10-foot right to left slider and you just don’t have the gumption to hit it firm enough to take the break you think exists, that’s called “losing your nerve”.  Putting in major championships is all about speed control and combining it with your ability to read the right amount of break and marry the two to put the ball in the hole.  Doing that requires you to “pull the trigger” without regard for the outcome.  It takes nerve…a lot of it…and Tiger did it better than anyone from 1997 until 2009.

Without question, players who are either average or poor putters – by TOUR standards – have a hard time winning major titles.  A few names that come to mind – all without a major – were or still are excellent ball strikers who just couldn’t putt well enough in major tournaments to win at least one of them; Lee Westwood, Colin Montgomerie, Jeff Maggert and Steve Stricker, just to name four.

I’d be shocked if Tiger finished his career on 14 major titles.  He’ll win another one by accident, at some point, when he just hits it stiff on 24 of the 72 holes and makes 12 birdies and 2 eagles en route to something like the 2018 British Open title.

But, it’s sure looking more and more like Jack’s record of 18 major titles is safe, particularly with the non-factor Tiger has become in just about every major except the Masters, where he seems to produce an annual challenge before the flat stick fails sometime through the middle of Saturday’s 3rd round.

I miss seeing him win major titles, honestly.

Golf was a lot more fun and a helluva lot more interesting when Tiger Woods was pounding people for a dozen years.

Tiger didn’t have to wear octopus pants to be noticed.

He was easy to spot, since he was usually standing on the green with the trophy at sunset.

Now, though, it looks like Woods has run out of charm.

Only time will tell.  And he has at least fifty major championships left to play pending good health, so it’s not like he’s in the November of his career or anything like that.

But the clock is now starting to tick on the great one.

Was John Elliott right?

It sure looks like he might have been.





2 Comments For This Post

  1. The Armchair QB Says:

    Great post, Drew! Seems like an accurate assessment, but not to be overlooked is the fact that time and tide are catching up with the one time phenom! Lots of variables have played into his fall from grace, but firing his caddie, Stevie Williams has to be a major factor. A good caddie can often make the difference in tournament play and the Woods/Williams combo was really tough to beat, once upon a time……

  2. pgavin Says:

    Good one Drew! He has lost something and even though I can’t stand Johnny Miller’s constant claim that “he missed that one because of nerves”. Johnny lost his nerve(that is a fact) so I always thought that was his mantra because he saw first hand what confidence has to do with winning.

    Even though all of these media types openly root for Tiger(they know where their bread is buttered) we might start to see some REAL critiques of his game.

    I think it was Lee Trevino saying that the only thing that could stop Tiger was a “bad back or a bad marriage”. He is suffering from both and Jack had a great marriage and may have been a better athlete than Tiger.
    Jack was a VERY GOOD basketball player, semi-pro football player and better than average tennis player. His body was not so torqued. These guys today are so finely tuned that in my opinion are more likely to have injuries.

    It is possible that when his career is over it will be defined by “Before nine iron upside the head” and “after that”. No doubt about his greatness… my issue with him is that he wins the same tournaments over and over. He did not promote the tour at all its stops.

    He might be too beat up….. physically and mentally. His “magic cocktails” could be the cause of the first and “cocktail(waitresses) magic” might cause the latter.

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