What Do Tiger's Early Stats Say?
Tiger has historically won 27.5 percent of his PGA Tour starts, so taking one victory out of his first four is right on par with his trophy regularity.
But what about his actual shot statistics this season compared to years past? The numbers might surprise you.
Last year, as Tiger was struggling with his knee problems, his driving distance was a touch down from years past. From 2004-'07, Woods was driving the ball consistently over 300 yards, even peaking in '05 when he averaged an astonishing 316.1 yards per tee shot. In '08 he only averaged 294.3 yards off the tee, and that is down five yards this year with Tiger currently ranking 44th on tour in driving distance at 289.1, his lowest total ever as a professional.
The stat that Tiger usually kills the tour with is greens in regulation ("GIR"). The last three seasons he has averaged 71 percent or higher, ranking at the top of the tour each of the three years. This season, with the new knee, he is 80th on tour, hitting just 140 greens of the 216 holes he has played. That number is probably the most telling of his "struggles," if you will. Tiger missed the green with some shots at the Masters that normally are nestling very close the flagstick. I'm not sure if you can pin his struggles with GIR to anything but just a little bit of a slump, because Tiger had plenty of time in his rehab to work on his 8-iron through wedge game, the clubs he normally uses going into most par-4s.
His putting average is also a tad down. In '07 and '08, Woods was fourth and third on tour in putting average, but is currently 90th in '09. Personally, his putting has been the one thing I've noticed that appears to be off. The eagle putt on No. 8 on Sunday at Augusta National and the birdie putt at Bay Hill to win not withstanding, he hasn't really made the putts he has to make this year. You know, the ones that you used to watch and think, "Yeah, no way Tiger misses this one." That was the eagle attempt on No. 15 at Augusta. Five years ago he doesn't miss that putt. This year, he did.
Tiger is still first on tour in scoring average at a salty 68.81, and he is also seventh in the all-important "pars per round" stat.
So what do all these numbers tell us? First, that we can't judge Tiger right now because he hasn't had a full year to test out the knee, play fast tracks in the summer (when the ball will run out more, thus upping his distance off the tee) and start making some putts. His game has been sharp at times and pretty lousy, by Tiger standards, at others. When will we get to see Tiger again? Probably at the Players Championship on May 7, even though Woods hasn't been a huge fan of TPC Sawgrass the last few years. He didn't play last year, and hasn't cracked the top-10 at the event since he won it back in 2001.