Five reasons why Tiger Woods better get it together and start playing some golf at this week’s Honda Classic at PGA National’s Champions Course at Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
1. Because Woods has only one more FedEx Cup point than you do, and you’re not even playing.
That’s right -- Tiger has just one FedEx Cup point. That means he’s 1,829 points behind frontrunner Jimmy Walker. Granted, Woods hasn’t played much -- one Tour start to Walker’s 10. But the little Woods has played has been ugly. He shot 79 to miss the Saturday cut at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, of all places -- the course where he’d won seven regular Tour events and a U.S. Open. And at the Euro Tour’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic a week later, where even a win would’ve netted him no FEC points, his T41 was essentially worthless in every other way.
It’s early yet. And it’s not as if Woods’ biggest rivals are doing so hot on the FEC table, either. Phil Mickelson is tied for 83rd place, which is ahead of Adam Scott (101), Rory McIlroy (104) and Henrik Stenson (144).
But at this point in the season Woods (225) should probably make it a point not to lag behind David Duval (186) and Mike Weir (199) in anything.
2. Because the kids are starting to see Woods as a kindly grandpa, and that’ll be no help the next time he has to beat them in a major.
Jordan Spieth dusted Woods by nine shots over the first 36 holes of the Farmers. Things got only slightly better the next week, when Rory McIlroy beat Woods by only eight shots through 36 at the Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club, where Woods had previously won twice.
“He’s easy to play with,” Spieth said. “He talks to us.”
3. Because if he doesn’t start driving it better, he’s going to have to grow a set of gills.
There are 26 water hazards at PGA National’s Champions Course, and the way Woods has been spraying the ball his caddie Joe LaCava had better be carrying one of those telescoping ball-retrievers. Or a snorkel.
Woods hit just 43 percent of the fairways at Torrey Pines, and 54 percent at Emirates. That’s well off his 2013 totals, when he hit 63 percent of the fairways. Although he hasn’t putted very well, either, Woods needs to start hitting some fairways to give himself a chance and start building confidence for the far more important tournaments (read: Masters) on the horizon.
What’s more, although Woods has always said the World Ranking takes care of itself, he’s no doubt aware that the Honda’s stacked field includes, among other bold-faced names, No. 2 Scott and No. 3 Stenson. Caution: Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear.
4. Because it’s got to be hard to concentrate with all that whispering going on behind his back -- and into various microphones.
“I don’t know what was going through his head,” Jhonattan Vegas said after playing with Woods in the third round at the Farmers, when Woods shot his ghastly 79. Hank Haney, Woods’ ex-coach, said Woods looks to have bulked up his upper body to the detriment of his golf game. Johnny Miller, the opinionated NBC broadcaster and Golf Magazine columnist, said in a conference call Monday that Woods would have won more majors had he stayed with the swing he used to win the ’97 Masters.
Even Ian Baker-Finch, the mild-mannered CBS golf analyst who could probably say something nice about the Grim Reaper, told Reuters that Woods should go off by himself to find the answers he’s seeking, adding, “It’s obviously not working, whatever he’s trying to do.”
Jeez, if he’s lost Baker-Finch, Woods may be in worse shape than we thought.
5. Because winning the Honda Classic is about so much more than just winning the Honda Classic.
Fact: Todd Hamilton won the 2004 Honda Classic and won the British Open later that year. Padraig Harrington won the 2005 Honda and won three majors over the next three years. Y.E. Yang won the 2009 Honda and bested none other than Woods to capture the PGA Championship later that year. McIlroy pulled off the same Honda-PGA double in 2012.
Whatever the reason, winning the Honda is a springboard to major championship victories, and Woods, who hasn’t won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey, could use some positive majors mojo right about now.