Tiger Woods opened his 2012 playing season at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship in January. He played bogey-free golf in the first round, finishing with a two under par score of 70, one shot better than Luke Donald (currently ranked #1 in the world golf rankings). After improving to a three under 69 in the second round, at the mid-point of the tournament, Tiger Woods was four shots ahead of Luke Donald and tied with Rory McIlroy. Pretty solid performance for a guy with the entire golfing world watching his every move, some hoping for a return to the top of the world rankings and others wanting him to fail miserably. On Saturday, January 28th, Woods looked a little like the Tiger of old. He made six birdies, was bogey-free for the second time in three days, and with a score of 66 moved to the very top of the leaderboard.
Members of the television and print media were falling all over each other in a rush to report that Tiger was back, would surely win this tournament, on his way to another major championship at the Masters in April. In the final round, Tiger Woods wore his traditional Sunday Red shirt. Paired with co-leader (and eventual winner) Robert Rock, Tiger struggled to a three bogey/three birdie even par score of 72. He finished the tournament tied for third place, two shots behind Rock. Some in the media were now questioning whether Tiger would ever win again.
Tiger's next appearance came at the 2012 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, February 9-12, on California's Monterrey Peninsula. Woods opened with a pair of 68's in the first two rounds, at Spyglass Hill and the Monterrey Peninsula Shore Course. In Saturday's third round, playing at Pebble Beach, it looked a lot like the Abu Dhabi Championship all over again. Tiger was able to make six birdies, with a single bogey, and his five under par score of 67 brought him into third place. Once again, many were proclaiming that he would win this tournament.
The Sunday Red came out again in the final round, in a much anticipated head-to-head duel with Phil Mickelson (nevermind that Charlie Wie and Ken Duke were ahead of Woods on the leaderboard). Depending on who was speaking, the story of the final day was either Mickelson's spectacular eight under par 64 to win the tournament or Tiger's collapse to lose it. It was an eleven shot swing, as Woods suffered through five bogeys en route to a score of 75.
Is Tiger Woods back, ready to be proclaimed #1 in the world again? No. Is he finished, doomed to never win another tournament (let alone a major championship)? No. Having finished under par in six of his eight rounds, and being in contention at the start of the final round in both tournaments, Tiger is clearly playing at a very high level. Our media is simply to quick to go to extremes, too quick to praise and too quick to put somebody down.
Tiger's game is fundamentally sound. I fully believe he will win again soon and may surpass Jack Nicklaus' all-time record of 18 major championships (Tiger currently has 14). His two poor rounds this season both came on Sundays, with attention (perhaps too much attention) being paid to the history of the Sunday Red. Something needs to be changed.
I suggest Tiger get rid of the Sunday Red. This may eliminate some of the pressure in his own mind and make the media find something else to talk about. Green may be a good choice. It's soothing, goes well with the overall atmosphere of a golf course, and we know Tiger Woods would like to win another jacket in this color at the 2012 Masters Championship.
Harold Andrews has played golf for nearly 50 years and considers Jack Nicklaus the greatest golfer of all time. He understands that much of the game is played between the ears.
- Tiger Woods