Two decades ago, one name completely dominated the professional golfing scene. Tiger Woods was producing some of the most amazing golf ever seen, leaving commentators running out of superlatives for the overall quality of his game. The power and distance of his drives down the fairways, the ability to get himself out of a pickle in the rough or bunkers, the accuracy and precision of his putting; nothing seemed to trouble this phenomenally talented player.
By far the greatest golfer of his generation, for the back end of the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st century, Tiger dominated the sport and quickly established himself as one of the greatest players of all time. For a time, it even looked as though he might quickly challenge the record of 18 majors won by the legendary Jack Nicklaus, which still remains unmatched.
Many key golf courses around the world even set about “Tiger-proofing” with changes aimed at trying to combat his level of dominance, adding extra yards to fairways and creating additional difficulties such as changing the par. None of this worked, however, as Woods continued to meet and beat all the challenges set before him, winning further titles at all the leading tournaments in golf.
The Downward Spiral
An apparently irresistible force that no other golfer seemed able to stop winning, the only person who could defeat the Tiger was Woods himself. After winning his 14th major overall, and his third US Open title in 2008, fall from golfing grace came with alarming speed. Injuries and personal problems took their unfortunate toll, Tiger slid down the PGA rankings from the top in 2009, to 68th in 2010, then as low as 128th in 2011.
After briefly clawing his way back to the top in 2013, another downward spiral came. 201st in 2014, 162nd in 2015, then two years with just one tournament start in 2017 and not even featured in the PGA rankings. The end, it seemed, had come for the once legendary Tiger Woods, although the lure of the greens and the glory was always going to lure him back to the fairways. His story still had more chapters to be written.
Comeback or Flash in the Pan at Augusta?
Winning the Masters Tournament at Augusta in April of this year could well be considered as one of the greatest comebacks in any sport. Why? Because it had been fourteen years since Tiger Woods last donned the Green Jacket, donned by the winners of the tournament. Not only that, but the 43-year-old golfing star hadn’t won any other major tournament for eleven years, with his previous win being at the US Open back in 2008.
For many, victory at the Masters seemed to herald a triumphant and long-awaited return to the very pinnacle of professional golf for Woods. Injuries and personal struggles seemingly a thing of the past, all of which had blighted such a remarkable golfing career, bagging another major suggested that Tiger was back to his very best and hungry for more success. However, subsequent tournament form has been mixed, to say the least.
Appearing next at the PGA Championship in the middle of May, Tiger struggled at the Bethpage Black Course and failed to even make the cut. Tied for 9th at the Memorial Tournament at the start of June, Woods was also ten shots behind eventual winner Patrick Cantlay, who finished -19 under par. There wasn’t any real magic at Pebble Beach either in mid-June, as Woods finished way down the leaderboard and tied in 21st position at the US Open.
Tiger Saving his Best for the Open?
Despite what would appear to be a phenomenal return to peak form when he won the Masters Tournament at Augusta in April, Tiger Woods still remains somewhat of an enigma. Subsequent form doesn’t really indicate he is a player back to his best, although that raises the question as to whether he is pacing himself at other tournaments, saving the foremost of his form for the very biggest events.
Comparing the prices offered by bookmakers featured at Oddschecker, some might be surprised that at 14/1 odds on offer, Woods isn’t fancied as one of the favorites to win the upcoming Open Championship to be held this year between 18-21 July at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland. This would suggest that even after winning one of the majors this year, the subsequent dip back to average form will make it difficult for Woods to repeat his Masters Tournament success.
The clear favorite to win the Open Championship is Brooks Koepka, who could even be regarded as “The Tiger” of this current generation of younger golfers. The 29-year-old has risen swiftly to the top of the PGA rankings and might have added the 2019 Masters to his already glowing list of achievements, were it not for the inspired performance from Woods at the same tournament.
Koepka is undoubtedly the player to beat at the moment, and anyone finishing above him on the leaderboard at any tournament will have a good chance of winning. The Open will be no different, while the chance to see him going toe to toe with Woods, possibly aiming for his second major of the year, will be a huge draw for fans and commentators alike. Tiger will be hoping to upset the odds, while Brooks will simply be keen to continue his fantastic progress in the sport over the last three years. Whatever happens, it will make for fascinating viewing.
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