Tiger begins new chapter after failing to advance to Tour Championship

Tiger begins new chapter after failing to advance to Tour Championship

Tiger Woods will next appear at the Ryder Cup on Oct. 1-3.
Fred Vuich/SI

LEMONT, Ill. — The PGA Tour season didn’t end Sunday, but it might seem that way for for some sports fans, as it effectively ended for Tiger Woods. He finished tied for 15th at the BMW Championship, which wasn’t good enough for him to advance to the Tour Championship, the finale of the FedEx Cup playoffs.

Oh, you’ll still be able to catch Woods in action once or twice this year. He’ll tee it up at the Ryder Cup Oct. 1-3, and he is also scheduled to play the HSBC Champions in Shanghai in November. But Tiger’s closing round of 70 at Cog Hill here on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, which left him one under par, should be his curtain call on the 2010 PGA Tour season, barring a shocking surprise appearance at one of the Fall Series events.

Woods never experienced the joy of driving at the BMW Championship. He never got anything going all week, never created any momentum. He double-bogeyed the opening hole of his opening round, which more or less set the tone. He birdied three of the last six holes in the third round to scrape out a three-under-par 68, but it was too little, too late for his slim FedEx Cup chances.

This was a year that Woods won’t soon forget. There was the fallout from his philandering scandal in the wake of that car accident on Thanksgiving night, the ensuing tabloid feast, a stint in rehab, a costly and painful divorce and the breakup of his working relationship with instructor Hank Haney. Not surprisingly, it was also his worst-ever year on the golf course.

How bad was his play in 2010? By his standards, terrible. We are clearly in a new era for Woods. Call it what you want — post-hydrant, post-Haney, post-divorce — but this is the beginning of a new chapter for Woods.

• Tiger did not win in 2010, the first time he has gone an entire season winless. For a man with 71 career victories on this tour, 25 of them coming in the last four years alone, that’s a staggering setback. For Tiger, his previous lows were 1998 (when he was re-tooling his swing with Butch Harmon) and 2004 (when he was retooling with Haney), when he managed just one victory each. This is the first time Tiger has been shut out.

• Tiger did not win a major championship in 2010. This marks only the second time in his career that he has gone two full seasons without winning a major. He went majorless in 2003 and 2004, a two-year period in which his only top-10 finishes in majors came in the British Open, where he was fourth and ninth. Tiger’s performance in this year’s majors, while disappointing by his standards, wasn’t really that bad. He tied for fourth in the Masters and the U.S. Open, and he was 23rd at the British and 28th at the PGA.

Twice, Tiger has gone winless through 10 consecutive major championships. He ended one streak with a victory at the ’99 PGA and the other when he captured the ’05 Masters. His last major victory was the ’08 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. His current major winless streak is eight and counting.

• Woods hasn’t finished below fourth on the tour’s money list since his rookie season in 1996, when he turned pro in August. He won twice and placed 24th on the money list that year. Since then, he’s won the money title nine times and finished second twice. He broke the $10 million barrier three times, and that’s not counting the $10 million FedEx Cup bonus he scored in two of the event’s first three years. Tiger came to Cog Hill ranked 65th on the money list with just over $1.17 million. That’s the lowest full-season total he’s ever had. Even in 2008, when he missed half the season after knee surgery, he won $5.7 million.

• Tiger’s statistics have reflected his poor play. Normally among the tour’s best ballstrikers, Woods would rank 156th in greens hit in regulation if he had enough rounds played to be officially ranked in 2010. He led the tour in that category in 2008. And 2007. And 2006. He would rank 32nd in scoring average this year, another category that he typically dominates, having the lowest average on tour in each of the five previous years. In five previous seasons, his low scoring average was 67.65 in ’08 and his high was 68.66 in ’05. This year, he averaged 70.36 going into Cog Hill. That’s 2.7 strokes per round higher than two years ago, and 2.3 strokes higher than last year. That adds up to nine more strokes for every 72-hole event. No wonder he hasn’t really contended.

This will go down as the worst year of Tiger’s career, but there have been a few positive signs since he started working with teacher Sean Foley the last few weeks. Still, Tiger isn’t expecting a quick fix or a miracle.

“I’ve been through it before,” Woods said at Cog Hill. “I didn’t win a tournament from here at the Western Open in ’97 until May of ’99, a year and a half, almost two years. With Hank, it probably took a year and a half before … I started to really get it and went off on a run. It’s taken some time and I understand that. I have no problem with that as long as I keep making progress.”

Woods will play next at the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor in Wales, Oct. 1-3. We’ll see how much more progress he’s made by then.