For Tiger, 2014 will be a major year
Look for a handful of victories again in 2014
As Tiger Woods turns 38, he's still the world's No. 1-ranked golfer by a wide margin. He's also the reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year, again.
So what will it take for him to get that elusive major win No. 15? And which part of his game stands in the way?
Our scribes dive into those topics and more in the latest edition of Four-Ball.
1. Finish this sentence: Tiger's next major comes ...
Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: ... at the Masters. Sweet redemption/justice for everything that happened in April.
Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: ... at the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla in Louisville.
Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: At the Open Championship, to be played at Hoylake in 2014. Of course I thought he'd win at Muirfield too. But the Open, at a place he had great success the last time, seems a logical place.
Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: ... once he can start feeling comfortable in uncomfortable situations at Grand Slam tournaments. PGA Tour pros will tell you that until it feels normal being in the final pairing on a Sunday with the lead, it's difficult to seal the deal. Well, the same is even more accurate in major championships. Tiger's work on the weekends at majors in recent years has been less than stellar, so re-learning that uncomfortable-is-now-comfortable axiom could be the difference maker.
2. Tiger will have more, less or the same number of wins (five) in the 2013-14 season as he did in 2013?
Collins: Same number of wins but one will be a major. He will get two top-10 finishes in other majors and finish outside the top 15 in a fourth.
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Evans: Tiger will have five or six wins in 2014. He won't have a serious dropoff in performance, unless he falls into another funk that leads him to another swing reconstruction.
Harig: Less. The guess here is four victories. And if he really does come through with a major, nobody will notice that it was one victory less than in 2013.
Maguire: The same. Five wins is a mighty impressive year, but 2014 would be significantly improved if one of those five were a major. The venues for 2014's Grand Slam tournaments (Augusta National, Pinehurst No. 2, Hoylake and Valhalla) all feed nicely into Tiger's past history on those courses, so I suspect the major drought ends in the coming months.
3. Which part of Tiger's game does he need to focus on most in 2014?
Collins: Tiger has got to improve on proximity to the hole on approach shots inside 125 yards. His wedge play when it mattered most in the clutch was not up to his standard.
Evans: With Tiger, it's all mental. You could point to his erratic driving, short-distance putting or wedge play, but his biggest problem lies in his head. The pressure on him to win majors will never subside. But the first step is for Tiger to acknowledge that he's not mentally infallible. It's not clear that he knows the root cause of his recent disappointments in majors.
Harig: Driving. Getting the tee shot in play is paramount to Tiger's success. He doesn't putt as well as he used to, but Woods is still an exceptional iron player and exhibits plenty of short-game prowess. It is imperative that he dominate the par-5s, and the best way for him to do this is to hit as many of those greens in two as possible. That requires a good tee shot. At his best, Woods always dominated the par-5s, and you'll notice, mostly, in his victories of late that has been key.
Maguire: The mental game. The swing is fine. Sure, he doesn't hit many fairways, but that wasn't an issue when he was churning out major wins in record fashion. The putter is streaky and as he nears 40, it will only become more so. But until the space between the ears becomes his most vaunted asset again, Woods won't be adding to his majors haul.
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4. Fact or fiction: Tiger Woods will be the 2013-14 PGA Tour Player of the Year.
Collins: Fact. Five wins plus a major might even beat two majors alone and I don't see anyone winning two majors to start that argument.
Evans: It's a fact, unless someone wins two majors against his five or six regular tour wins.
Harig: Fiction. I see Adam Scott getting the award this time after what appeared to be a close call in 2013. For that to happen, he's going to have to have a big year, however. If Tiger wins four times including a major, Scott is going to have some kind of season.
Maguire: Fact. Percentage-wise, he always wins this award, right? To expect anyone in the world to produce a season better than Woods would likely take multiple major victories in a season. That hasn't happened since 2008, coincidentally when Woods was out of action due to a broken leg after he won his last major, in the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.
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