|Let me first point out that I think Tiger Woods is the best active player in the world.
Now, with that being said, Tiger Woods is not the best ball striker in the world. Tiger's inability to work the ball from left to right consistently from the fairway, on par threes and even from the tee has kept him from even being more dominate that he already has shown. Tiger ranks 182nd in driving accuracy this year and ranked 188th in driving accuracy for the 2005 campaign.
Tiger's play year after year at the Nissan Open solidifies my point. Tiger has never won the event and has finished in the top ten only three times out of ten. I will say that, Tiger does have two second place finishes. Riviera Country Club is a finesse golf course that requires a player to be able to work the ball both ways. Being able to consistently fade the ball is a must and Tiger as not been able to show he can hit that shot consistently close. Tiger has been able to over power golf courses with his length. Tiger's length allows him to hit shorter irons into the par fours than the majority of his opponents. Tiger's length off the tee allows him to carry it past a lot of the trouble, which in turn allows for a shorter second shot regardless of how far he was off line from his original target. Tiger reaches at least two out of every four par fives in every round and would reach at least three if he could consistently hit a fade into the fairway with his driver. This equates to at least eight birdies per tournament. The majority of golfers do not have the luxury of being able to hit a golf ball over 300 yards consistently. Tiger ranks fifth in driving distance and there are only 15 golfers on tour who average over 300 yards.
Remember, I am not saying Tiger is not the best player in the world, I am saying he is not the best ball striker. If he played more course like Riviera Country Club where he had to be able to work it both ways, then we would not see such a dominate player. Tiger would not be able to over power the course as he so often does now. To Tiger's credit, he is a very good grinder when things are not going his way, but it is nice to know after every three or four holes there is going to be another par five he can reach in two and make an easy birdie. Nothing like making a birdie to stop the bleeding when he is not hitting it well.
Stephen Ames' comments were not far off the mark and I am sure his comments were taken out of context. Remember, Stephens' comments were made after Tiger withdrew from the Nissan this year because he was sick. Stephen unfortunately felt the repercutions of the best player in the world under perfect conditions as they were for Tiger in the first round of the WGC Accenture Match Play.
As golf courses are altered to make them tougher over the next five years, I am curious to see if Tiger can still over power the golf course or will he have to learn to hit a fade consistently from anywhere on the golf course. We know Tiger can hit that low stinger fade off the tee with his two iron or the utility hybrid, but can he improve all other aspects of his game.
Tiger will have to show me more ability of consistent shot making to compare him to Jack Nicklaus. For the time being, there is nobody better in the world on most golf courses than Tiger Woods.
Posted by John McNamara at 3/1/2006 10:20:00 PM