The official 2015 PGA Tour season is underway, even though it is still 2014. For those that may not know., the official season begins with the Frys.com Open in October of the year prior. FedEx Cup points start accumulating early to get tour pros to play some of the later in the year tournaments. We probably won’t see Tiger again until very late in 2014 or early 2015. The Hero World Golf Championship, Tiger’s Tournament and the last golf tournament of the calendar year, will not be held at Sherwood Country Club in California this year. It will be at Isleworth Golf and Country Club in Windermere, Florida which has been Tiger’s home course for quite some time. One of the reasons Tiger was so successful at Sherwood was the getable par 5s even without a driver. It will be interesting to see how Isleworth sets up for him.
In 2015, Tiger will look to get back to his winning ways as 2014 was quite the disappointment. Even though Tiger claimed he was injury free it did not look that way throughout most of the season. He did not compete at a high level in any of the majors in which he participated. In fact, Tiger has not played well in four rounds of a major in quite some time. Many would argue the 2010 Masters Tournament right after his indiscretions was the best he played in a major as he finished in the top 5 even though he hadn’t played in an official tournament in the prior seven months.
Most would agree that Tiger will play in the 2015 Masters at Augusta. While I would like to say that Tiger could win at Augusta the course just does not set up for his shot shape. When he won most of his Masters the course was shorter and it did not demand long drives with a draw. Martin Kaymer attempted to change his entire swing to hit a draw just to win the Masters. He ended up throwing away two years of his golf career as it did not work out. When he went back to hitting a power fade he won the Players Championship and US Open at Pinehurst last year.
Augusta fits a right hander that draws the ball and a left hander that fades the ball. There is a reason Phil Mickelson plays so well at Augusta. There is also a reason Bubba Watson has won two of the last three Masters tournaments. Both are left handed players that can hit a power fade around the corners at Augusta National. Unless Tiger comes up with a magical swing it is highly unlikely he will be able to hit 315 yard draws during the 2015 Masters. With Rory McIlroy driving the ball so well it will definitely be the case that he is the odds on favorite to win along with Bubba Watson.
The 2015 US Open will be at Chambers Bay in University Place, Washington. This is a course in which the very first hole demands a draw off the tee box. Not exactly the type of hole Tiger Woods likes to see to start a round. That said, it is a par 5 so a bogey here would likely be unlikely. Other holes that demand a draw include #2, #8, #10, #11, and #14. This looks like a course that would benefit the golfer that can both draw and fade the ball. There are very few holes that are straight away. Couple that with the fact that it is quite up and down and this could pose a problem for Tiger.
The 2015 British Open, or Open Championship, will be played at the Old Course in St. Andrews. This is Tiger’s favorite course of all time. If there is any tournament he can win without hitting a driver dead straight it would be this one. Links golf sets up well for Tiger because he can hit long irons and woods off the tee box. If the course is playing hard and fast Tiger would likely be one of the favorites to win the third major of 2015 along with Rory McIlroy. If Tiger is 100% healthy and hitting his irons well I believe this will be his best shot to get major #15.
The final major of the year, the 2015 PGA Championship, will be hosted at Whistling Straits (Straits Course) in Kohler, Wisconsin. In 2010, the last PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, Tiger finished -2 which was tied for 28th. Honestly, this was not terrible when you considering Hank Haney had just walked away from Tiger as his swing coach and all of the issues with Elin and Tiger’s women. Tiger shot a 71, 70, 72 and 73 in that tournament which is consistent compared to some of his debacles at that point in his career.
With Martin Kaymer winning the 2010 PGA Championship and Zach Johnson coming in 3rd this tells me it is not a course that demands length. That said, both Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson were slated to go into the playoff before the “grounding of the club” issue with Johnson on the 18th hole.
If this course is playing shorter and Tiger can stay in the fairway he should definitely have a chance to be on the leaderboard in the final major of the season. In the 2010 tournament, Tiger was all over the place off the tee. He his some amazing recovery shots out of the high, wispy grass. With his back and knee injuries over the years I do not think he can continue to play these creative shots out of the rough. If Tiger can find a driving iron or a wood that he can keep in the fairway it will give him a chance to win this tournament. That said, I would imagine they will set the course up to play even longer than it did in 2010.
After reading Hank Haney’s book, The Big Miss, I firmly believe Tiger will not be able to catch Jack Nicklaus in terms of most major championships. Tiger tries to tweak every little thing about his swing. Now that Sean Foley is his swing coach he is trying more of a “stacked” swing in which he is over the ball and compressing his irons much more. This compression means he can hit the ball further but it is not as easy to control a driver and Tiger has never been able to control a driver his entire career. With Foley, it seems to be the case that the driver is even more erratic.
As Hank Haney has said, Tiger Woods is the greatest iron player of all time, but his drives not hitting the fairway make it almost impossible to win golf tournaments, especially with younger players hitting it further. If you are wondering if Tiger can win a major golf tournament in 2015 just look at his driving stats heading into the tournament. He doesn’t have to drive the ball 325 yards to win tournaments but he definitely has to hit fairways. Every fairway missed is just more pressure he is going to put on his back and his knees.
I do hope that Tiger comes back and wins multiple tournaments in 2015. I hope he wins multiple major championships. This would be great for the game of golf that has seen TV ratings slip in the last several years. That said, Tiger Woods is a different player both mentally and physically. After going to the sexual addiction rehab Tiger Woods has not been the same. He is probably a better person, being more empathic, but he is not the fierce competitor he was. He was up three strokes in the final round of his tournament at Sherwood and found a way to lose to Graeme McDowell. He has been near the top of the leaderboard in multiple majors only to slide during the weekend. This would have never happened with the old (younger) Tiger.
I think Tiger can get one or two more majors but I just do not see him winning five more. It has been since the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines since he has hoisted a major championship trophy. In 2015 I will be watching to see how much confidence he has in his driver. Another aspect of his game you will want to watch is his chipping and pitching. Haney pointed out that Tiger was not putting in the time to clean up his short game at the end of their relationship and that has shown over the last few years. Let’s just hope Tiger has that competitive spirit back and wins a few tournaments and at least one major in 2015. Do you think Tiger Woods will win a major golf tournament this year?