Summing up Tiger Woods' 2013
And what surprised us the most about Woods' season?
As usual, Tiger Woods' season was far from boring. All over the globe, Woods was making headlines often-times because of rules violations.
So what stood out most from his five-victory, PGA Tour Player of the Year award season? And where did that elusive 15th major nearly become reality?
Our scribes dive into those topics and more in the latest edition of Four-Ball.
1. What was Tiger's most dominating performance of 2013?
Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Tiger's most dominating performance in 2013 had to be at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. He won by 7 shots and on the day he shot 61 (which should have been a 59 in Round 2) only three others broke 68. By his standards, the 7-shot lead going into the final round was "only" the fifth-largest 54-hole advantage in his career.
Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Tiger seldom makes it look easy. Even when he wins, there are the occasional bad holes with wayward drives and miscues on the greens. Yet at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone, he looked to have the most control of his game at any point in time during the year.
His second round 11-under 61 on Firestone's South Course was a pleasure to watch. A 59 would have been a nice addition to a résumé already unparalleled in this era.
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Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. He flirted with a 59 and settled for a second-round 61, shot 15-under par on a difficult Firestone course and won by 7 strokes at a World Golf Championship event, which boasts one of the best fields of the year.
Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: It might have come at his first win, and start, of the PGA Tour season at Torrey Pines. Even though Woods' victory got pushed into Monday by some dodgy weather, how much Mother Nature would endanger the proceedings was the only thing in doubt once Woods carried a 4-shot lead into the final round. He started a trend that would continue throughout the year of winning on courses that he favors, including Doral, Bay Hill and Firestone.
2. What surprised you the most about Tiger's 2013 campaign?
Collins: The most surprising thing about Tiger's 2013 was his T-32 finish at the U.S. Open. Many believed the Players Championship, which he won, would be a precursor to what it would take to win at Merion. A 76 in Round 3 derailed any hopes of breaking the major-less streak and left us scratching our heads.
Evans: It was shocking to see Tiger not play better on the weekends in the majors. The game had some great major champions in 2013, but it would have added even more prestige for those four winners if they had to beat the best player in the world to do it.
At this point, with the great depth in the game, no one should think that Tiger will ever again dominate in the majors, but you expect him to at least be in contention late in these events.
Harig: That he didn't win a major championship. Let's face it, everything seemed set up for such a scenario. He won in his last start before both the Masters and PGA Championship, had more wins than any other player, and seemed poised to end his major-less streak. That he failed to do so was among the stories of the year in golf.
Maguire: That his weak finishes are becoming more common. Tiger's consistency throughout his career is unparalleled, putting up numbers in one season that are considered solid careers for most. That being said, in 2013, Woods finished outside the top 30 on the PGA Tour six times. You have to go back to his first full season in 1997 to get the next closest time to that with four. In 13 of his 17 full seasons on the PGA Tour, Woods had three or fewer finishes outside the top 30 but owned twice that many in 2013.
3. What will you remember most about Tiger's 2013?
Collins: Unfortunately the thing I'll remember most will be the fallout from the Brandel Chamblee comments. As strange as it was having so many crazy rulings with Tiger this year, having someone in a roundabout way call you a cheater takes more away from the five wins than is fair. But that's the memory.
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Evans: Tiger's bad drop at the 15th hole during the second round of the Masters was one of the strangest events of the year. How it unfolded from a TV viewer (Champions Tour player Dave Eger) calling it in, to the Masters rules' committee handling of it, to Tiger's ignorance of his error, started the year off for the 14-time major winner on the worst possible note.
Already dealing with the stress of a five-year slump in the majors, the rules distraction was an early sign for Tiger of a season that would be filled with disappointments in the big four events.
Harig: That winning five times and going back to No. 1 in the world was trumped by his rules issues. While the view here is that too much of the attention came simply because it was Woods, the fact is he had four high-profile issues, three of which cost him 2-stroke penalties. The incident at the BMW Championship inflamed the debate again, and put his character in question. Despite plenty of evidence to suggest that these were simply mistakes, the high number and the incessant attention that came with it was impossible to ignore.
Maguire: His 61 at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. That second round tied his career low and had him sniffing a 59 on a course he owns in Firestone Country Club. Isn't it amazing that the best golfer of his generation, possibly ever, isn't on that short list of 59s or even the slightly longer list of guys who have shot 60?
4. At which major did Tiger have the best shot to end his drought?
Collins: The Masters was Tiger's best shot at ending the drought. If that golf ball doesn't hit the flagstick and he makes birdie ... everything changes. I do wonder if in some parallel universe there's a Tiger who won the Masters and the Open Championship. Of course, in that universe Phil Mickelson won the U.S. Open!
Evans: For me, it was the PGA Championship at Oak Hill, where he finished in a tie for 40th. Tiger came into the year's final major off a masterful 7-shot win at Bridgestone. He was a huge favorite but all he did was go out and have his worst finish of the year in the majors.
It's one thing if Oak Hill was playing super difficult and tricky, like the way Merion was for the U.S. Open. Yet PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner finished 10 under and had a 63 in his second round while 20 other players finished under par. Tiger was 4 over for the week.
Harig: The Open Championship. Through two rounds at Muirfield, Woods played nearly-flawless golf. Graeme McDowell, who played with him the first two days, said Woods was hitting it so well he expected his 15th major to come on Sunday. As it turned out, had he played the weekend in 1-under par, he would have tied with Phil Mickelson. But Tiger went 72-74 -- while Mickelson went 72-66 -- and Woods finished five back. And his troubling play on the weekends in majors continued.
Maguire: By far, it has to be the Masters. If his second shot on the par-5 15th hole at Augusta National veers a few inches left or right, all those questions about how he hasn't won a major since 2008 might -- might -- have been silenced. He played well enough to win that week in April, but sometimes taking home a major requires a little bit of luck, too, and that wasn't on Woods' side in 2013's majors.
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