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Tiger Woods’ 2018 Comeback Year

Tiger Woods holds his putter in the air to celebrate his victory at the 2018 Tour Championship

What a year for Tiger Woods. He was the talk of the tour last year. After a leave of absence from golf and multiple back surgeries, Tiger Woods had himself a comeback year in 2018.

2019 will be a huge year for someone else on the PGA Tour. Will Rickie Fowler get his first major? Will Jordan Spieth have a comeback year? These are questions that we can only guess the answers to.

Tiger Woods 2018 Results

Tiger competed in 18 events which is the most for him since 2012. He finished in the top ten 7 times, with 2 runner ups and his first win since 2013 which came at the Tour Championship. This ranked him 8th overall in tournament earnings in 2018.

Tiger finally looked like….. Tiger again.

Everyone wants to watch Tiger

Everyone was tuning in and cheering him on. CBS Sports announced that the ratings for the 2018 PGA Championship were up nearly 70% from last year’s tournament. What’s the difference? Tiger was in contention this year.

2018 had the highest ratings for the PGA Championship since 2009. Guess who was in contention that day? Yup you guessed it. Tiger again. Y.E. Yang came from behind to steal a major from Woods that year which remains Tiger’s only loss in a major after holding a 54-hole lead.

Tiger Woods eyeing up a putt.

Tiger Woods 2018 Stats

Not only could you see the change in Tiger’s game from the past few years using the eye test, the stats back it up too. This is particularly noticeable with some of his short game and short-mid iron game stats courtesy of PGATour.com.

For those who aren’t too familiar with a few of the stats that are displayed, here are some definitions:

  • Strokes gained (SG) is a statistic that compares a player’s strokes from specific situations and locations on the golf course and measures them against a statistical baseline to determine a player’s strokes gained or lost on a hole.
  • Birdie or Better (BOB) Conversion Rate: The percentage that a player makes a birdie or better after hitting a green in regulation.
  • Good Drive Percentage: The number of fairways hit + the number of greens (or fringe) in regulation when the tee shot was not in the fairway

Tiger’s Iron Play

Tiger was very accurate and minimized the distance to the cup when hitting his approach shots. When his distance to the green was 50-125 yards, Tiger ranked 3rd on tour in average distance to the hole. If that distance gap became 125-150 yards, he still ranked 9th out of all golfers.

SG per round: Approaching The Green 0.883 (3rd)
Avg Distance to hole: Approach from 125-150 yds 20′ 2″ (T-9th)
Avg Distance to hole: Approach from 50-125 yds 15′ 9″ (T-3rd)
BOB conversion Rate (from fairway) 26.42% (12th)

Short Game on Point

Taking a look at Tiger’s short game you can also see solid numbers. Woods ranked 8
th in one-putt percentage and 22nd in putts per round at 28.49. He was the 4th best scramble player on the PGA Tour in 2018 and his Birdie or Better Conversion Rate ranked 16th.

Pretty good for someone who hasn’t really played much golf over the last four years.

SG per round: Around the Green 0.385 (11th)
SG per round: Putting 0.266 (48th)
Scrambling Rate 64.16% (T-4th)
One-Putt Percentage 42.65% (8th)
Putts per round 28.49 (22nd)
BOB conversion Rate 32.93% (16th)

Driving Woes

The one aspect of Tiger’s game that lacked efficiency was his driving. He spent a lot of time in the rough because of his erratic shots from the tee box. According to PGATour.com, Woods ranked 127th in driving accuracy which is what held him back the most last year. Imagine if he figures out the tee how much better he will be in 2019.

Driving Accuracy 59.35% (127th)
SG per round: Off the Tee 0.061 (100th)
Good Drive Percentage 80.57% (138th)

2018 PGA Championship

2018 PGA Championship Logo at Bellerive in North Carolina

Other than his win at the Tour Championship, Tiger’s most memorable performance was at the PGA Championship. Woods had a solid first three rounds at Bellerive and was tied for 6th heading into the final round on Sunday.

Front 9 at Bellerive

After rimming out a birdie putt on 1, Tiger sunk his birdie putts on 2 and 3 to rocket up to 2nd place, 3 shots back from the leader. Everyone started to think that this might be the day he would finally break through and get back to his winning ways.

Woods followed up a bogey on the 6th with two consecutive birdies, once again, on 8 and 9. This put him at 11-under par and 1 shot back for a hot second.

One of the more incredible stats of Tiger’s front 9 is that he didn’t hit a single fairway. He went 0/7 and still managed to post a 3-under 33 at the turn.

So close for Tiger

With birdies at 12,13, and 15, Tiger had a shot to tie the lead on the 16th with a long birdie putt but couldn’t find the cup. Tiger’s round then came to a screeching halt when he couldn’t come up with a birdie on 17 due to an errant drive. With eventual winner Brooks Koepka up two strokes, two pairings behind him, his bid for a 15th major had basically disappeared.

This final round was a microcosm of Tiger Woods’ year.. Great iron play and clutch putting kept him in contention but it was his errant driving that cost him a shot at redemption. That and Brooks being a monster off the tee and smashing his driver upwards of 350 yards.

Here are Tiger Woods’ stats from the 4th round of the 2018 PGA Championship:

GIR 12/18
Fariways Hit 5/14
BOB Conversion Rate 62%
One-Putt Percentage 67%
Total Putts 24

Woods ended up finishing in second place at -14, just two strokes back from Koepka. But he did grab his first win in five years at the Tour Championship just six short weeks later so this was a good stepping stone.

2019 could be great for Tiger

Tiger had a great comeback season in 2018. He was exciting. He was making clutch putts in key moments. His iron play was spot on. He finally got a win. The crowds surrounding him were enormous.

All of this made for a great year for Tiger. Not just for him but for the fans too.

If he can clean up his driving woes and stay focused 2019 could be even better. Maybe he can even win a major. I’m sure everyone in the sports world will be dialed in to the Masters come April to hopefully watch Tiger create some magic again.


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