Tiger Woods has four victories in 2013, yet his season is being scrutinized for its three losses – the Masters, the U.S. Open and now the Open Championship.
Woods has always defined his success by major championship victories, aiming for Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 since he was a young boy staring at a poster of Nicklaus in his room.
Yet, after a 3-over 74 that never really saw him in contention Sunday at Muirfield, he is stuck on 14 major titles.
He’s been there since 2008, when he won the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. Many expected that Woods would have surpassed Nicklaus by now, but that hasn’t happened.
And it seems to come down to three simple numbers:
For a man who wins more than 20 percent of his career starts, going 0-for-17 is like Ted Williams going 0-for-100 – it isn’t supposed to happen. Yet, after finishing five shots behind Phil Mickelson in Scotland, that’s where Woods is at.
His next chance will come at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y., on Aug. 8.
From 2005-11, Woods was an astounding 60 under on the weekends at majors – explaining his dominance.
Over the last two seasons, he is a cumulative 23 over – that’s 83 shots worse. He even started Sunday’s round with a three-putt bogey, and followed it with another at No. 4.
Despite the tough venues like Muirfield and Merion, that will never be a winning formula in majors. That’s nearly 2 over per round, which has taken away his intimidation factor, and has allowed for the likes of Mickelson to go out and blitz the back nine to the tune of four birdies – he didn’t have to worry about Woods catching him from behind.
Woods did make birdies at Nos. 12 and 14 Sunday to get within two of the lead, only to see Mickelson get to the par-5 17th in two and then two-putt for birdie.
Game. Set. Match.
“If (Mickelson) would have posted (1 under) it would have been a different story,” Woods said. “I think a lot of us would be a little more ticked than we are now. But he posted 3. That’s a hell of a number.”
Despite the gloom and doom surrounding Woods’ major performances, he does have history on his side. And it comes from that man he’s trying to catch.
Nicklaus didn’t win his 15th major until his 67th start on golf’s biggest stages, and Woods just completed his 63rd. Nicklaus was 38, Woods is 37.
“I’ve won 14 and in that spell where I haven’t won since Torrey, I’ve been in there,” said Woods, who will play the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Aug. 1-4. “It’s not like I’ve lost my card and not playing out here. So I’ve won some tournaments in that stretch, and I’ve been in probably about half the majors on the back nine on Sunday with a chance to win during that stretch. I just haven’t done it yet. And hopefully it will be in a few weeks.”