Is Tiger Woods in a no-win scenario?
His back is bothering him and his driver is betraying him and he's got no more major championships to play this year while attempting to defend a five-win season. This is the plight of Tiger Woods at the current juncture of 2013.
Of course, it was Woods himself who years ago shone the spotlight on the majors, and has often said that a major championship makes a year. He has waffled on what makes a great year, semantics, really, in the big picture. When you consider how few players win majors, it is a remarkable standard to set; for some, however, anything short in Woods' case suggests failure.
Fellow tour pro Bill Haas tried to lend some perspective last week at the Barclays, wondering just how we got to a point where a five-victory season -- something accomplished now 10 times by Woods in his career -- is not celebrated.
"His lack of winning a major is the only thing talked about, which I think is sad," Haas said. "I think it's ignorant ... There's five wins [this year], but not winning a major is what we're basing his year on.
"He's not winning the smaller events. He's winning the WGCs and Bay Hill, and yes, it makes what he is doing that much more impressive."
Yes, Woods would trade it all for a major championship this year. He admitted as much last week on the eve of the Barclays, where he finished second to Adam Scott.
A good bit of the questioning had to do with what Woods felt was a great year, and while he won't diminish what he has accomplished this year, winning one major and nothing else would seemingly end all discussion.
Or would it?
What would be Woods' fate today if that had happened?
Let's say he didn't win at Torrey Pines, Doral, Bay Hill, TPC Sawgrass and Bridgestone. Let's say he blew 54-hole leads at all venues; let's say he took several more putts than his personal-best efforts of 100 and 102 at Doral and Bay Hill, respectively. Let's say that tee shot into the water at the 14th hole Sunday at the Players led to a triple-bogey instead of a double; let's say his 61 at the WGC-Bridgestone was a 68 and he lost to Henrik Stenson in a playoff.
And let's say his approach to the 15th on Friday of the Masters didn't hit the flagstick and go into the water, instead stopping inches from the hole for an easy birdie, giving him the lead that he held for the duration, giving him a 15th major title.
That is a ton of "ifs." But what if it played out that way? What if Woods' only victory this year was at the Masters, and he had won nowhere else, and was heading toward September without a win since Augusta?
What kind of grief would he be taking if that were the scenario?
Be honest, if you're criticizing him for a five-victory season without a major, wouldn't you be criticizing him if he had only one victory -- even if it was the Masters?
Had it played out that way, there is a good chance Woods would not be No. 1 in the world. Depending on who won those other tournaments, Phil Mickelson would be a strong candidate for his first PGA Tour player of the year honor, with Scott giving him a good argument. And there's a pretty good chance Woods wouldn't be leading the FedEx Cup standings either.
He'd have a major, sure, but Woods also would be getting the questions about why he's going on five months without a win. (If he got questions in 2001 about not winning early in the year -- coming off of three straight majors, before winning a fourth -- he'd be getting them now.)
Granted, all of those things probably mean a lot less to Woods in the overall scheme of things than does the pursuit of Jack Nicklaus and his 18 major titles. Woods has been stuck on 14 for five years, and until that 15th comes, the discussion will not subside.
But five victories should not be diminished. In the last 33 years, only three players have won as many as five times in a season: Woods did it 10 times, Vijay Singh and Nick Price once each. Going back to 1970, it has occurred 23 times by eight players. Again, Woods accounts for 10 of the 23.
Last week, Scott -- before winning the Barclays -- said he'd take his Masters win over Woods' five non-major titles. No doubt. That green jacket just made Scott's career, and it means way more than a bunch of tournament titles. It should be noted that in a successful career, Scott has never won more than twice in any year.
So we're left with this as it relates to Woods: He has played 10 tournaments besides the majors (including Abu Dhabi, where he missed the cut) this year. And he has won five of them.
And to scoff at that ... Haas said it best: It's ignorant.
The FedEx Cup
Say what you want about the FedEx Cup: it's nothing more than a money grab; the points system is too confusing; they should change the format to a winner-take-all at the Tour Championship; what is the FedEx Cup again?
There have been all manner of questions and criticisms concerning the FedEx Cup, now in its seventh year.
But you cannot deny what it brought in terms of a golf tournament on Sunday at the Barclays: a compelling leaderboard and several of the top players in the world, almost none of whom would have been there otherwise.
Adam Scott won for the second time this year and moved to No. 2 in the world. Tiger Woods made a late charge after seemingly falling out of contention because of a back injury; Phil Mickelson put together a final-day rally. U.S. Open champion Justin Rose three-putted the final green to blow a shot at a playoff with Scott. Matt Kuchar let a shot at a third victory this year get away.
Add in the views of New York City from Liberty National, a few glimpses of Rory McIlroy as he attempts to regain his form, and the tough-luck stories of guys (i.e. Aaron Baddeley) missing out on a chance to advance in the FedEx Cup playoffs, and you've got a pretty good golf tournament for late August, post-PGA Championship.
There is no doubt the format could be improved, and as long as it remains as it is, there will be cries to fix, alter, tweak or overhaul the FedEx Cup. But without it, where would we be?
The top players on the PGA Tour are competing for at least the coming month, something that could not be said prior to the birth of the FedEx Cup in 2007.
>1. Adam Scott. A second victory this year following his Masters win puts him in position to win the FedEx Cup and very firmly in the race for PGA Tour player of the year.
2. Lydia Ko. Still an amateur, she won for the second time on the LPGA Tour, defending her Canadian Open title and making many wonder how long it will be before she turns pro.
3. Tiger Woods. His back was giving him fits, and he seemingly was out of it at the Barclays before a final flurry came up one roll of the golf ball short.
1. Aaron Baddeley. The Aussie has had a tough year, finally made the cut at the Barclays … then bogeyed the final three holes at Liberty National to miss advancing to the Deutsche Bank Championship.
2. Camilo Villegas. He would have suffered the same fate as Baddeley … were it not for Baddeley, whose collapse allowed Villegas' collapse (final-round 76) to survive for another week.
Presidents Cup watch
This is the last week players can qualify for the U.S. and International Presidents Cup teams, with the top 10 in the respective points standings automatically qualifying, then captains Fred Couples and Nick Price add two at-large selections Sept. 4.
As it stands now, the U.S. team looks like this: Tiger Woods, Brandt Snedeker, Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Bill Haas, Hunter Mahan, Webb Simpson and Zach Johnson. The next four, in order, are Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson, Jim Furyk and Bubba Watson. Couples could do worse than to simply pick Johnson and Watson, with 20-year-old Jordan Spieth getting a good bit of speculative interest.
The International team looks like this: Adam Scott, Charl Schwartzel, Jason Day, Ernie Els, Louis Oosthuizen, Hideki Matsuyama, Branden Grace, Richard Sterne, Angel Cabrera and Graham DeLaet. Oosthuizen's status is unclear because of injury. The next four, in order, are Tim Clark, Thongchai Jaidee, Marc Leishman and George Coetzee. After Clark, the other three outside of the top-10 have no Presidents Cup experience. Nor does Matsuyama, Grace, Sterne or DeLaet.
The U.S. has lost the Presidents Cup only once, in 1998, and on paper this looks like a huge mismatch in the Americans' favor.
Of course, how many times has that been the case going into the Ryder Cup?
After his victory at the Barclays, Adam Scott joined Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar and Brandt Snedeker as players with multiple wins this year. ... This week begins the first Web.com Tour Finals, with the first of four tournaments for players who finished 1 to 75 on the Web.com Tour money list and 126 to 200 on the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup points list. The top 25 in Web.com money earned their PGA Tour cards, but will play for higher status. Another 25 cards go to the top 25 money winners in the four-tournament series that begins in Fort Wayne, Ind. ... Qualification for the 2014 European Ryder Cup team begins this week at the Wales Open, with only one player from the 2012 team -- Francisco Molinari -- entered. ... U.S. players could earn Ryder Cup points this year only at the major championships but will renew the process at the Frys.com Open in October -- the first event of the 2013-14 season ... Lydia Ko became the first player to win twice as an amateur on the LPGA Tour and now has won four professional events. At age 16, she is unsure of what is next, but is remarkably ranked seventh in the world.
"I feel like I've been given a bit of a gift." -- Adam Scott after he came from 6 shots back, posted 11 under, waited 90 minutes, and nobody could match him at the Barclays, where he won for the second time this year.