DUBLIN, OHIO: The tabloid turmoil of the 2013 PGA Tour is totally missing the mark.
The avalanche of attention paid to Sergio Garcia’s tiff with Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh’s lawsuit over deer antler spray, reaction to the upcoming anchored putter ban and Woods’ relationship with alpine skier Lindsey Vonn is obscuring the real story.
The master of few words cut to the chase Wednesday when the question of such gossip was raised at Muirfield Village Golf Club.
“I’ve won four times this year,” Woods said succinctly.
As he starts defense of his Memorial Tournament title today, Woods is five months into a season that could rival his groundbreaking achievements of 2000. He’s captured four out of seven events and earned nearly $6 million. It’s a winning percentage that surpasses 2000, when he prevailed in nine out of 20, missed the top 10 only three times and added more than $9 million to his bankroll. In 1999, he won eight out of 21.
In 2000 at Pebble Beach, Woods also posted a 15-stroke victory in the U.S. Open, which started what is known as the Tiger Slam, which saw him capture four consecutive majors.
We’ve seen glimpses of that kind of play from Woods, albeit without the runaway margin. He’s never won four tournaments by mid-May until this year.
Yet at the moment, the golf world seems more consumed with whether Garcia apologized to Woods face-to-face or via Twitter for his recent off-handed, racist-tinged remark about fried chicken. It was suggested that perhaps Woods should have gotten that over with last week, especially with the U.S. Open looming June 13-16.
“So I have to fly to Wentworth?” Woods asked, referring to the course in England where Garcia was playing in the European Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship.
Rather than wondering whether Woods is still stung by Garcia’s comment or their spat that started at the Players Championship, it is time for fans to sit back and enjoy Woods’ demonstration of golf domination.
I, for one, thought those days were long gone, especially after following him as he limped around Torrey Pines on one leg in an 18-hole U.S. Open playoff triumph over Rocco Mediate.
That afternoon in 2008 was his last major victory, but that drought seems in its final days. With the reconstruction of his swing under the tutelage of Sean Foley now complete, Woods seems at peace with his game, with his health, with his physical limitations, perhaps even with his love life.
Woods has won seven of his past 20 PGA Tour tournaments, starting with the Arnold Palmer Invitational last year. Although he’s cleaned up at six events — half of his 78 tour victories have come at the Bridgestone Invitational (seven), Arnold Palmer (eight), Cadillac Championship (seven), Farmers Insurance Open (seven), Memorial (give) and the BMW Championship (five) — Rory McIlroy isn’t so sure that matters any more.
“I thought that was pretty impressive,” McIlroy said of the aforementioned PGA Tour stat that was tweeted Tuesday night. “The guy is good wherever he goes. He can win anywhere.”
The remaining major venues this year — Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., for the U.S. Open, Muirfield for the British Open and Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y., for the PGA Championship — are being touted as good fits for Tiger’s eye, especially the first two.
But as McIlroy suggested, it might not matter considering Woods’ frame of mind.
“All the stretches where I’ve played well, I felt good about what I was able to do as far as my misses and being able to fix it on the fly,” Woods said. “That’s huge. That took a little bit of time and I finally have turned the corner to that. I finally was starting to get to that point toward the end of last year.
“I’m at a point now where Sean and I really don’t do a lot of work, just alignment and little things. What you’re seeing this year is that I’ve gotten more precise and I’ve been able to work on other parts of my game and made them strengths.”
That is both a frightening and thrilling proposition. Frightening for his peers, thrilling for his followers (and the television networks).
Woods has played at only three of the six events he’s dominated. Still to be decided are the Memorial, the Bridgestone at Firestone Country Club Aug. 1-4 and the BMW Sept. 12-15, part of the FedEx Cup playoffs. Should Woods make a major breakthrough for No. 15 and resume his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18, it could spur another stunning run not seen since 2005-09, before his marital infidelities were revealed after a Thanksgiving 2009 car accident.
It’s not out of the question that Woods could surpass Sam Snead’s tour record of 82 career victories this year. In fact, barring injury, I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t.
So forget about deer antler spray and fried chicken and other meaningless antics from those who have no chance to beat Woods. There’s a show going on, one not to be missed.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the her blog at https://ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.