The stirring images of Tiger Woods flexing his arms and emitting a triumphant guttural scream after his Masters win will be etched in our mind and in history books for generations to come. However, the initial emotions stoked within all of us and perpetuated by the media right after that win are now as distant as the smell of french fries blowing in the summer wind on a chilly January morning.
We all hoped, or at least this is true for most diehard golf fans, Tiger’s win at Augusta was the beginning of a second golden age of golf for him. It was his 15th major championship and came a few months after his win at The Tour Championship to end the 2018 season. In that moment, the chase for 18 seemed back on again.
Now, that seems as likely as Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau enjoying a leisurely five-hour round together.
Well, let me be the first to say Tiger Woods will not catch Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors, and the end of this season proved it.
Tiger limped to the finish in 2019, earning fewer top-10 finishes (1) in his final six starts than missed cuts (2). His season officially came to an end at the BMW Championship, where he finished at -7, and failed to make the Top 30 in the FedExCup Standings, which precludes him from playing in the Tour Championship this year.
Even worse than the uninspired, grimace-laced play we saw from him on the PGA Tour after his Masters win, Woods play at the majors is what essentially ended any hope of him reaching Nicklaus’ major record (at least in my mind). Don’t forget, two majors this year were held on courses where Tiger had won majors before (Pebble Beach and Bethpage Black), but he didn’t contend in either and the future doesn’t offer many good chances to inch closer to Jack.
Outside of Augusta, the next course hosting a major where Tiger has won before is the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. Tiger will be 45 at that time. Not exactly an easy age to win a U.S. Open.
In the 2020 majors, Tiger faces a course where he’s missed the cut at the U.S. Open before (Winged Foot), is playing in a major setting for the first time (TPC Hardin Park) and finished T-4 in 2003 (Royal St. George’s). I’m not saying he can’t win at any of those venues, I’m saying it’s going to be hard, if not impossible given his balky back.
Unfortunately for those who held out hope after Augusta, it feels as if that was more of a last hurrah rather than a sign of things to come. Tiger’s body once again seems to be failing him and his ability to practice and play consistently certainly seems over at this point. That doesn’t mean he’ll never win again and that doesn’t diminish the amazing moment he created in April 2019. It just means we’ll have to remember the memories we had and not think of what’s to come, because, at this point, it seems what’s to come is replays of better times remembered and not new memories created.