Tiger Woods Has Been a Ghost During the 2014 PGA Tour Season

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistFebruary 19, 2014

Tiger Woods walks to the sixth hole as some fog rolls in during a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2010, at Whistling Straits in Haven, Wis. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

We are now 15 events into the PGA Tour’s 2013/2014 wraparound schedule, and Tiger Woods has played a mere three rounds of golf.

Since the FedEx Cup concluded last September, Woods has played just 15 competitive rounds of golf worldwide, and that includes four rounds at his own 18-man Northwestern Mutual World Challenge cash grab event.

That is an average of around one competitive tournament round per week for Woods over the past five months.

Woods has become the PGA Tour’s version of a snow leopard, often referred to as "ghost cats." We all know that these "ghost cats" exist, but very few have actually seen them in their natural habitat.

This week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship will mark the second consecutive World Golf Championship that Woods has skipped for reasons other than injury or scheduling conflicts, as far as we know (a.k.a., he simply couldn't be bothered gassing up the jet and making the trip out West).

Woods’ schedule is set to pick up a bit over the next six weeks where he will likely attend three events leading up to the Masters, but that is still an incredibly small amount of golf for Woods to play in preparation for the first major of the season.

If Woods were to make the cut in his next three events, he will have played only 27 competitive rounds of golf between the Tour Championship last September and the 2014 Masters in April. Of those 27 rounds, just 15 would have come at legitimate PGA Tour events.

Ten years ago, Woods could disappear for months at a time and show up at a PGA Tour event and completely dominate the field as if he had never left.

But those were the days when practice was a form of religion for Woods.

His 14-hour days of beating golf balls in the sweltering Florida heat became the stuff of legend during the late 90s and early 2000s.

That no longer seems to be the case.

Woods arrived at Torrey Pines last month for the Farmers Insurance Open looking as if he hadn't touched a golf club in weeks.

At a golf course where Woods had won eight times and was the defending champion, he posted rounds of 72-71-79 and missed the 54-hole cut. During those three rounds, Woods hit just 55 percent of greens in regulation, hit just 42 percent of fairways off of the tee and had a negative strokes gained putting average for the week. That means Woods lost strokes to the field with his putter during each of his three rounds at Torrey Pines.

Things didn't get much better for Woods the following week in Dubai where he posted rounds of 68-73-70-71 on his way to a 41st-place finish at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

So far in 2014, Woods has broken 70 just once in seven competitive rounds of golf.

But instead of righting the ship, Woods has taken a month off from tournament golf and will play in just three more tournaments before the 2014 Masters.

There is no question that Woods has been cutting back on his PGA Tour schedule in recent years. Woods played just 16 PGA Tour events last season and hasn't played more than 20 PGA Tour events during a single season since 2005.

But what should be particularly concerning for Woods fans is that not only has Woods played an even lighter than usual schedule, he was completely unprepared to play at the one PGA Tour event he did attend this year.

Tiger Woods showing up at a PGA Tour event unprepared to play?

There was a time not so long ago when such words would be considered a form of golf blasphemy.

There could be three logical explanations for Woods’ light schedule and lack of preparations so far in 2014.

  1. Woods could still be fighting through some form of injury that the general public does not yet know about. Late last year, Woods had some issues with his back during the FedEx Cup playoffs, so perhaps he is still struggling with some form of a back injury.
  2. Woods has simply lost the desire to win every time he steps onto the golf course.
  3. Woods is beginning to get up there in age, so perhaps he is trying to conserve both his body and mind a bit more during the lead up to the Masters.

Whatever the reason may be, something has been just a bit off with Woods in 2014. He has not been playing as often, and he has clearly not put in the time and preparation needed to compete at the game’s highest level.

Woods fans better hope that reason No. 3, as listed above, is behind Woods’ performance and scheduling decisions so far this season, otherwise 2014 is going to be a very long year for Tiger Woods.