2011 PGA Championship Preview: Tiger Woods

By Jim Donahue

Yes, Tiger Woods has a PGA Tour -high three victories this year. He leads the Tour in money and FedEx Cup points and right now probably is the player of the year. But 2012 will be considered a failure if Tiger doesn’t win the PGA Championship this weekend at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island.

All Tiger cares about is majors and he remains stuck on 14, four behind Jack Nicklaus’ record. Should Tiger not win this week, it would be the fourth straight season he hasn’t won one of golf’s four biggest tournaments – his last major win remains the 2008 U.S. Open.

If Tiger is going to finish what he started and break Jack Nicklaus’ record, he knows that every major start is precious.

“I figure it’s going to take a career,” Woods said of his timetable to break Nicklaus’ record of 18 major titles. “Jack didn’t finish (winning) until he was 46, so if you go by that timetable I’ve got 10 more years. Forty more majors is a lot. I’ve got plenty of time.”

Granted, when you put it in that context, 40 majors is, indeed, a healthy number of opportunities. But he would need to win 10 percent of those majors just to tie Nicklaus. When you figure that arguably the second best player of the Tiger era, Phil Mickelson, only has four majors in his Hall of Fame career, the task ahead of Tiger looks as daunting as ever.

There have been two different Tigers in majors this year. On one hand, Woods was in the lead entering the weekend at the U.S. Open, and was in contention at Royal Lytham, yet failed to close out either event for major title No. 15. Woods is 13-over in six weekend rounds in majors this year — 8-over on Sundays alone. He also has struggled at times with his putting. Woods is 39th in strokes gained-putting and 75th in birdie-or-better conversion percentage this season.

Should Woods win his fifth PGA Championship on Sunday, Tiger has a chance to reclaim a title he’s held for a record 623 weeks during his career — the world’s No. 1 player. Tiger started 2012 at No. 23 in the ranking — his current 21-spot ascension is the third-biggest among players in the Top 25 this week. Only Dufner and Zach Johnson have climbed more this year.

In two previous majors on Pete Dye-designed courses, which the Ocean Course is, Tiger has finished T28 (2010 PGA) and T24 (2004 PGA) and has never shot lower than 69.

Age: 36.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 2.

Worldwide wins: 86.

Majors: Masters (1997, 2001, 2002, 2005), U.S. Open (2000, 2002,
2008), British Open (2000, 2005,

2006), PGA Championship (1999, 2000, 2006, 2007).

Best 2012 performances: Wins at Arnold Palmer Invitational,
Memorial, AT&T National.

2012 majors: Masters-T40, US Open-T21, British Open-T3.

Odds to win: +700 (favorite)

Overview: There should be no more questions about whether Woods is “back” based on his swing. He has won three times this year, and no one has won more in one season on the PGA Tour since … Woods in 2009. But no one will think of him as being “back” until he wins another major. The game is fine. He doesn’t hole as many putts as he once did, but that was bound to happen. No one said this about Woods before, but what he needs to win a major is a few good breaks.

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