Tiger Woods won a PGA Tour-best five events during the 2013 season, accomplishments that helped the 79-time tour victor reclaim and cement his standing as the world’s No. 1 golfer and earn him his 11th player of the year award.
That’s all good. But Tiger’s campaign, a career year for any other player, was missing the one honor that has eluded him for the past five-plus years -- a 15th major championship. There were plenty of individual moments, both good and bad, which pepper our Top 25 countdown, but Tiger's weekend struggles that resulted in another lost summer are No. 19 on our list.
Oh, Woods won the so-called fifth major at TPC Sawgrass and came close in two of the season’s actual four grand slam events -- T4 at the Masters (darn that dratted flagstick at Augusta) and T6 at the British Open (damn those slow Muirfield greens). But "close" cadges no one a green jacket or Claret jug and had never, until recently, even been in Tiger’s lexicon.
"I've won 14 [major titles] and in that spell [since winning the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines], I've been in there. It's not like I've lost my card and not playing out here," Woods said after Sunday’s Open Championship finale. "I've been in probably about half the majors on the back nine on Sunday with a chance to win during that stretch."
But, alas, he has not gotten it done. Since hobbling to victory at Torrey, the formerly self-assured Tiger has weathered more injuries, a self-inflicted sex scandal and a complete swing overhaul, each of which could put Jack Nicklaus’ mark of 18 majors further out of reach.
If Woods were to point to the primary reason he has failed to close the deal since besting Rocco Mediate in that 2008 playoff, he might wonder what the heck happened to that Mystique d'Eldrick that exuded from the ever-confident Tiger and seemed to make all challengers swoon in his presence. Less woo-woo but just as mysterious are the weekend woes that have plagued Woods in the recent past.
Since Torrey, the last time he broke 70 on a major Saturday or Sunday was in the final round in 2011 at Augusta.
A quick saunter down memory lane for some clues as to why the owner of the Tiger Slam can’t slam the door on that elusive 15th major begins with the 2009 PGA Championship. Y.E. Yang, who’s won twice worldwide since, improbably halted a would-be wire-to-wire win by Woods, who carded a 75 that Sunday at Hazeltine.
Of more recent vintage, closing rounds of 74 and 72 left the 36-hole co-leader 11 shots shy of winner Rory McIlroy. Another share of the lead midway through the 2012 U.S. Open disappeared in a flurry of bogeys that led to a 75-73 finish and a share of 21st at the Olympic Club.
More recently, Woods took a share of the two-day lead into the weekend at last year's PGA Championship, but shot 74 and 72 down the stretch to leave himself 11 shots back of winner Rory McIlroy. That was after Tiger fell out of a tie for the 36-hole advantage at the 2012 U.S. Open, where he ended up in a share of 21st after closing 75-73.
Things did not improve this past season, when Woods, in June at Merion, recorded his worst performance at a major by ending a god-awful week with a Sunday 74. And that was a day after he posted his highest major score in relation to par, a 6-over 76.
Sure, the competition’s stout and anything can happen on any given Sunday. But until Woods can figure out how to break the Tiger Curse, Jack can stop looking over his shoulder for perhaps the next five years.