Winless Tiger Woods in 2010?

August, 31, 2010

After Tiger Woods fired his 65 last Thursday, the microwave popcorn analysis that sprinkled across satellite airwaves Friday morning made two assessments of the world's most famous new divorcá:

Trivia question

The Deutsche Bank has had almost exclusively marquee-name players win the event since its inception in 2003. Winners include Steve Stricker, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Adam Scott. Who is the other man to have won the event besides the players listed above? (Answer below.)

1. Woods was now able to focus on golf, since his marital obligations were now out of the way. And ...

2. The original Woods was back, with version 2.0 making like Windows Vista.

And though Woods' driving accuracy (by driving, I mean tee shots with 3- or 5-metals and not just shots with an actual driver) came back in full force for the majority of the week. His putter arrived for only two days (Rounds 1 and 4) at the Barclays. Thus, a halfway-there Woods finished tied for 12th, working through swing changes and trying to find the speed on the greens in New Jersey.

Yet, Rounds 2 and 3 should remind people that, for this coming weekend at least, Tiger might be just as likely to fall backward as he is to ascend once more.

If Woods doesn't qualify for the BMW Championship (this could happen if he misses the cut this week at the Deutsche Bank Championship), he would finish 2010 without an official win on the PGA Tour because a Fall Finish appearance is highly unlikely. Woods, who has almost no historical benchmarks to compare against, has never gone a calendar year on the PGA Tour without winning at least once. Only in 1998 and 2004 did Woods win only a single time.

The concept of a winless season for Woods was something unthinkable in, say, the week before last Thanksgiving. However, there is a lot of historical precedent to Woods' winless season among Tiger's all-time-great peers.

Among the all-time leaders in victories on the PGA Tour, almost all went a full season (so, 10 or more official events played) before turning 40 without a victory at some point in their careers. Notables who never went a full year in their "prime" (a subjective term -- but here meaning in a full season before turning 40 in which the player started 10 or more PGA Tour events) include Arnold Palmer (fifth), Byron Nelson (sixth) and Walter Hagen (eighth).

Jack Nicklaus didn't win a tournament in 1979, but he was 39 at the time. The year he was 34, which Tiger is now, he won twice on the PGA Tour (in February and September).

Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh are the only two players in Woods' era who have had careers even close to comparable to Woods. Phil went two full years without a win (1999 and 2003), whereas Singh did it three times before turning 40.

This year has been a lengthy and regretfully memorable one for Woods, but it's not his longest drought without a PGA Tour win. It's tied for the third-most official PGA Tour starts he's made in his career between victories. Tiger's longest drought came in 2004 and 2005, when he made 16 starts between the '04 Accenture Match Play and '05 Buick Invitational between finishing atop the leaderboard.

Compare that mark to some of his other contemporaries. The last time Woods wasn't the No. 1 golfer in the world, Singh was. Singh is on a streak of 44 PGA Tour starts without a win, and it isn't even the longest drought of his professional career.

How about Mickelson? Well, last year Lefty went 11 PGA Tour starts without a win at one point and still finished in the top-15 in the FedEx Cup standings. Mickelson has had winless streaks of 11, 12 and 13 events since 2007 alone. Since 2000, Mickelson has had seven instances where he made 11 or more PGA Tour starts between winning, with his longest drought coming in 2002-03: 31 official starts between victories.

Nicklaus turned 40 on Jan. 21, 1980. Keeping our spectrum of comparison to the 1980 season and prior, Nicklaus had eight instances where he started 10 or more PGA Tour events between victories. That's twice as many instances as Woods.

Woods has been so ridiculously dominant in his career that he has almost no historical comparison. This is why writers continue to cover his every move, why networks base their coverage of an event around him and why magazines increase their cover price for issues featuring an interview with his now ex-wife.

Of course, Tiger could win this week and none of these numbers would matter anymore.

Here's something to watch for this weekend in Massachusetts: If there's a two-stroke discrepancy Monday afternoon with one hole to go between our leader and anyone chasing them, don't change the channel.

The 18th hole at TPC Boston played to a score of 4.427 in 2009, the second-easiest closing hole to par on the PGA Tour. TPC Boston's 528-yard par-5 was sandwiched among three closing holes from the Bob Hope Classic, which longtime readers of Numbers Game will recognize as the great numerical aberration on the PGA Tour. The Bob Hope annually has the lowest scoring average among full-field events all year.

Trivia answer

Question: The Deutsche Bank has had almost exclusively marquee-name players win their event since its inception in 2003. Winners include Steve Stricker, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Adam Scott. Who is the other man to have won the event besides the players listed above?

Answer: Olin Browne, who won it in 2005.

If a player can carry the right fairway bunker, which is 320 yards from the tee, he'll have a short iron into the green for a shot at eagle. There were 15 eagles made last year on the hole, which tied for the second-highest total among closing holes in 2009.

Justin Ray has been a studio researcher for ESPN since June 2008 and is the lead researcher for "The Scott Van Pelt Show." He is a 2007 graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, where he studied convergence media. Send comments and suggestions to


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