Last year in his 82nd PGA Tour victory at the Zozo Championship, Tiger Woods (obviously) beat everyone in the field. This year at the Zozo Championship, he nearly lost to everyone. Woods finished at 1 under for the week -- a hearty 22 strokes back of eventual winner Patrick Cantlay -- and beat just three of the other 76 competitors in the field. He finished up Round 4 on Sunday at Sherwood Country Club with a 74 as he closed out a below-average week playing alongside Phil Mickelson for the 38th time in his career.
Big Cat's swing looked good this week, and he showed no signs of an achy back even in temperatures that dropped into the 50s on Sunday. That was the good news. The bad news is that no part of his game looked good in what could possibly be his last event before the Masters -- Woods said he will decide "in the next few days" whether he will play at the Houston Open -- in three weeks. Tiger lost at least .75 strokes to the field on average every round with his putter, driver and iron play. He shot two rounds over par at an event where all but three players finished in red numbers for the week.
Woods did show signs of life at times, but they were few and far between. It was evident early on that Woods was playing for Masters prep and not to win this golf tournament for the second year in a row. That likely was not his intent coming in, but after he opened with a 76 when the average score of every round dipped into the 60s, his hand was forced into working on his game.
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That's not the worst thing in the world of course, but it was another lost week in a year full of them for Woods. He has not been sharp for most of 2020 and certainly not so since returning to golf in July. In Round 2 at Sherwood, his iron play did return momentarily and made us wonder whether Round 1 was an outlier. As it turns out, the solid play on Friday was the actual outlier.
It's a disappointing result for myriad reasons, but the primary one is that Woods seemed to be feeling healthy. When he's feeling healthy, he almost always plays well, even later on in his career as the talent has diminished a bit. So we're forced to believe that the talent has fallen way off from where it was at a year or 18 months ago. That's problematic going to the Masters.
Tiger said he'll decide "in the next few days" whether he'll play Houston Open. Said he won't wait around either way on that decision like he has with some commitments in the past. 👀👀👀— Daniel Rapaport (@Daniel_Rapaport) October 25, 2020
Woods did leave the door open for playing the Houston Open in two weeks, the week before a Masters where he will be the reigning champ. Still, it seems unlikely (and out of character) for Woods to play two weeks in a row with the second week being a major championship. That would mean that of the two times we've seen Tiger this season -- the U.S. Open at Winged Foot and this week at Sherwood -- he has one missed cut, and the only reason he doesn't have two is because this week was a no-cut event.
Tiger can turn things quicker than anyone in golf history -- I wrote about that very thing this week -- but his chances of notching a win for the third straight year look pretty bleak going into November. Woods is not showing incremental (or any) improvement in his game, and that's a tough spot to be in with so many golfers playing such great golf ahead of one of the most unique Masters of all time.