Tiger Woods didn’t win or even finish in the top-10 at last weekend’s Honda Classic, but he managed to produce arguably the most (over)analysed 12th-place finish in golf history. He also reached a total of 10 rounds played in 2018, which for the moment qualifies him to be ranked among the US PGA Tour’s leaders in various statistical categories. In other words, here comes yet another angle to examine Woods’ latest comeback so far.
Granted, it’s a small sample size, but there’s still plenty to be gleaned from the numbers Tiger has put up thus far. Let’s start with the bad stuff, which not surprisingly begins on the tee. Woods ranks 213th in driving accuracy (out of 216 players), hitting the fairway at just a 45-percent clip. That has no doubt played a large role in him ranking only 206th on tour in greens in regulation (more on his iron play later). However, those struggles are somewhat mitigated in the strokes gained: off-the-tee stat, where Woods checks in at No.146 at -0.147 (which means he loses 0.147 strokes to the field per round off the tee).
Woods’ distance, he ranks T-29th for the season and was second at the Honda Classic, has helped mask that inaccuracy. But wild misses with the driver, especially on par 5s, have hurt his scoring opportunities. Woods ranks a dismal 208th in par-5 scoring, a stat he used to dominate, with a 4.87 average. World No.1 Dustin Johnson leads that category at 4.33, meaning that if a course has four par 5s, he’s picking up two shots per round on Woods on those holes alone. Woods’ inability to take advantage of these longer holes has kept him to making only 3.6 birdies per round, which ranks 97th, and he has yet to make an eagle.
What may come as a surprise is that Woods’ short-game hasn’t been as sharp as it has seemed in his three starts. Perhaps, our expectations have been lessened after his much-talked about struggles – particularly the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open – but if Woods is to contend on a regular basis again, he’ll need to do better than 93rd in strokes gained: around-the-green. OK, let’s get to some good stuff, shall we?
When Woods has been in good position off the tee, he’s certainly capitalised on approach shots. He ranks 40th in that strokes gained stat, but he’s up to No.13 in proximity, which only counts approach shots that land on or around the green, and was the stat Nick Faldo kept pointing to at PGA National, where Woods led the field.
Another stat that caught people’s attention during that 12th place finish was Woods having one swing clocked at 128.2mph, the second-fastest measured swing on tour all season. But it wasn’t just that one mighty lash. With an average swing speed of 122.13mph, Woods ranks fourth. Not bad for a 42-year-old who has undergone four back surgeries.
The closest thing we’ve seen to vintage Tiger has come on the greens, where Woods ranks 16th in strokes gained: putting, picking up 0.682 shots on the field per round. That figure has been helped by Woods being a perfect 97 of 97 thus far on putts of three feet or less. He’s also shown that trademark Tiger toughness in responding to bad holes, ranking T-3 in the bounce back stat.
Add it all up and Woods’ overall strokes gained of 1.013, good for 41st, makes sense for a golfer who has finishes of 12th, T-23 and a missed cut in three starts thus far. Again, these stats are based on only 10 rounds, but they paint a clear picture of how Woods has played – and what he’ll need to improve if he wants to shift the conversation surrounding him to being about more than just solid finishes.