Updated: January 29, 2013, 3:03 PM ET

Titles are still about execution, even for Tiger

Harig By Bob Harig

The victories have come at places he likes, on venues with which he is familiar. Tiger Woods has four wins on the PGA Tour in 10 months, all at tournaments he had won previously, all at courses he seemingly owns.

Bay Hill. Muirfield Village. Congressional. And now Torrey Pines, again. Seven times Woods has won the PGA Tour event now known as the Farmers Insurance Open, played at the San Diego muni he first teed up at as a junior golfer. Throw in the 2008 U.S. Open and it's a whopping eight victories at Torrey.

Does that make it easier to win?

[+] EnlargeWoods Trophy
Jake Roth/USA TODAY SportsOf Tiger Woods' 75 career PGA Tour titles, 22 have come on three courses: Torrey Pines, Bay Hill and Firestone.

It certainly doesn't hurt to have familiarity and comfort on a golf course. Woods has proved that time and again with his triumphs at places such as Augusta National, the Old Course at St. Andrews, Medinah and tour stops such as Firestone and Doral.

Yet Woods provides the best example of it being far from automatic, that we take for granted his wins at these venues, that playing well, far above all else, is the key.

Otherwise he wouldn't be going on eight years without a green jacket at the Masters. Or would have easily won at St. Andrews in 2010 (tied for 23rd). Or continued his winning ways in recent years at Firestone, home of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational (finished 30 strokes behind winner Hunter Mahan in 2010).

Woods has won the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill seven times but also has six occasions where he finished 20th or worse. He has those seven wins at Firestone, but in two of the past three years he has been 37th or worse.

Two years ago, in his first appearance at Torrey Pines since winning the 2008 U.S. Open, Woods tied for 44th -- the first time he had ever been out of the top 10 in the event.

Previous success is nice, but it really means nothing if your game is in disarray.

"I drove the ball beautifully all week," Woods said Monday after a 4-stroke win, his fourth victory in 18 tournaments dating to his win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last year. "My short game has been coming around. It came around at the end of last season, and you're not going to hit every par5 in two, but you need to get upanddown, and I did that this week.

"My short game was back to how I know it can be. My shots that I hit, especially out of these nasty little lies, I hit some really good ones this week. And that allowed me to save some pars, save some birdies and move my way up the board, and basically that's what I did."

Woods' assessment of his driving might be questioned -- he had plenty of wayward tee shots -- and his inability to get the ball in the fairway on command with some sort of go-to shot remains a place where he will want to improve.

But Woods did hit 32 of 56 fairways, and you don't play the par-5s in 12-under par if you are not getting the ball in at least decent position off the tee.

So much goes into scoring -- driving, wedge play, short game, putting -- but Woods' success on the par-5s will always be a key to winning, and all manner of getting there has thwarted him in recent years. Whether it was wayward drives or poor approaches, he wasn't dominating those scoring holes like in years past.

At Torrey, Woods made two eagles, getting halfway to his total of four for all of 2012. That is another trend to be watched.

So yes, Woods has won 22 of his 75 PGA Tour events at three tournament venues -- Torrey Pines, Bay Hill and Firestone. That fact is sometimes stated as if it is a negative. Instead, it should be considered impressive. Woods himself is proof that nothing is assured.

World Traveler

Before his recent run of success, Jason Dufner had virtually no worldwide golf experience. That changed after his runner-up finish at the 2011 PGA Championship and his first two PGA Tour victories in 2012.

Dufner headed to Australia late last year for a European Tour event played in Perth, where he tied for second. After beginning this season at the PGA Tour's Hyundai Tournament of Champions, Dufner headed to the Middle East for tournaments in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, finishing tied for ninth at each stop.

Now he is headed to the Waste Management Phoenix Open this week.

"It's been nice to have some exemptions and have some tournaments want me to come and play their events," Dufner said. "It's just a good thing, I think, to compete around the world and see where you stack up and maybe show the world what type of golf game you have where they might not be able to see you in person.

"We're pretty spoiled in the U.S. People are pretty focused on the U.S. PGA Tour, but there's a lot of other tours and a lot of other great events around the world that are going on."

Dufner did not rule out the possibility of taking up European Tour membership in the future.

"We thought about possibly doing it this year," he said. "I'm not sure how much I'm going to be playing later in the quarter, fourth quarter, after the [PGA Tour] playoffs. So that's kind of the reason why I didn't do it this year. But it could be a possibility in the future with the majors and the World Golf Championships counting [toward European Tour and PGA Tour membership]."

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.


You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?