Tiger Woods' Handicap Over Last 24 Years is Pretty, Pretty Good
Sometimes in life, expectations don't match reality. When it comes to Tiger Woods' handicap, they actually exceed them.
Thanks to our favorite self-proclaimed "golf stat pro" Lou Stagner, we now know what Woods' USGA index has been since he said "hello world" in 1996 and turned pro. It started out at a +5.1 (oh my!), got all the way up to a +9.4 (holy crap!) in 2008, slipped to a +3.7 (still, incredibly good) in 2015 when he was dealing with back and chipping issues and is currently a +6.5 (we back!).
For those who don't know what a handicap index is, it's the official calculation of a golfer's handicap based on where they live (so the USGA for players in the United States). It's not an extra average of what they shoot relative to par, but it is pretty close. That means for his career, Tiger's average score is around 6 strokes under par.
As for his handicap, that is calculated at every course based on the slope and rating. So we don't know for sure what Woods' would be. However, usually you add around +1.5 strokes to your index to come up with a handicap. Based on these numbers, Tiger's handicap would average something around +8 and his high could be around +12. That means if you're a +2 handicap (less than 1% of golfers are), you'd be getting five strokes a side in 2008. That's bonkers.
Even more amazing, this number doesn't take into account the fact that the courses Woods plays on, which these numbers derive from, are PGA Tour and major championship courses. If, as Stagner suggests, you adjust for tour conditions, Woods would be around a +12 index (+13-14 handicap) in 2008. Currently he'd be around a +8.
We all know how good Woods is because we've watched him dominate on TV for two decades. Even at age 43, he won his 15th major last year, at the Masters no less. But seeing that index gives us weekend hackers something to compare to when we tee it up at our local muni, and let's just say for me (-10 index), it's a humbling experience.