Grading Tiger Woods golf game in an up-and-down 2020 that included just one top 10 finish

Something that got lost in the strange year of golf that was 2020 is just how up and down Tiger Woods’ last 14 months have been on the course. From playing tremendously to playing pitifully to not really playing at all, it was one of the weirder years for Woods over the course of his entire career.

Woods won the Zozo Championship in late October 2019 and then dominated as both a player and captain at the 2019 Presidents Cup in Australia. From there, he finished in the top 10 at the Farmers Insurance Open to start his 2020 PGA Tour slate … and that was the last top 30 finish he put together on the season.

There are a million ways to judge a Woods season, but I broke his performance down into five totally arbitrary (but also totally fun!) categories. Let’s start with the one he probably cares the least about.

The stats

This may have been Tiger’s worst healthy (or mostly healthy) year of all time. He gained just .10 strokes per round overall, and according to Data Golf, this is how they broke down.

  • Off the tee: -0.06
  • Approach: +0.64
  • Around the green: -0.10
  • Putting: -0.48

This was slightly better than Chesson Hadley and slightly worse than Wyndham Clark, which all things considered, is not really the place you want to exist if you’re Tiger. He’s dropped below a top 50 player in the world threshold in terms of a 50-round lagging average in strokes gained. Add it all up, and expectations should not be high going into 2021. Grade: C

Data Golf

The swing

Tiger’s swing actually looked good this year, which made his play perplexing. Whereas it was incredibly stuck at times at the end of the 2018-19 PGA Tour season, Woods’ move was fluid and much smoother than it has been. It just rarely produced the results he wanted. When it did, it was coupled with horrific putting performances. Regardless, it’s encouraging from both a health perspective and for what the future looks like for him that his move this year looked as good as it’s looked in this latter part of his career. Grade: A-

His health

Tiger did not play golf from the Genesis Invitational to the Memorial Tournament — a span of 22 weeks — and was a scratch at the Players Championship, which is a note that got quite buried when the Players Championship was canceled because of COVID-19. That’s probably just a version of what Woods is going to be over the rest of his career, though. He will miss long stretches because the back or knee or neck is not right, and he will be mostly healthy for other long stretches, like he seemed to be toward the end of 2020.

The disconcerting part here is that Woods has almost never been both healthy and bad like he was at time this year. That’s something to keep an eye on going into 2021 because, if we’re entering a time when Woods is both healthy and not good at golf, that will be an entirely new era altogether. Grade: B-

The finishes

They were not pretty. Aside from that T9 at Torrey Pines and the Farmers Insurance Open, his next best finish was … T37 at the PGA Championship. He was not ever really in the mix at any tournament he played, which is such an unusual, bizarre thing to be able to honestly say about a Woods year. This goes back to not being able to put a week together, though. When his swing was really locked in, his putter ran cold. When he rolled it well, he couldn’t hit a wedge shot. Tiger has always been the best at consistency across the board, but that was not the case at all in 2020, which is how he ended up with more finishes of 65th or worse than finishes of 30th or better. Grade: D

The majors

Woods missed the cut at the U.S. Open, and despite opening-round 68s he couldn’t crack the top 25 at either of the other two majors. Also, he made a 10 on a par 3 at the Masters in November. A 10. On a par 3. At the Masters. People forget. Grade: D-

The wrap

There are no lost years with Woods because it’s all gravy at this point, especially after that 2019 Masters victory, which may end up being the last major of his career. Still, we might remember this as the year Tiger finally dropped off despite being healthy. Maybe not. Maybe he’s not disclosing some sort of injury he’s been struggling with or he bounces back in 2020, but it did feel like there was a bit of a shift in 2020 that the hasn’t been in past years. That doesn’t mean he can’t win again, only that wins and even contending for them will happen less and less over the course of the rest of his career. Grade: C-

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