Golf

Tiger Woods must win a major in 2014

Woods must end his five-year wait for a major title in 2014. (©GettyImages)
Woods must end his five-year wait for a major title in 2014. (©GettyImages).

2013 was a good year for Tiger Woods, but it certainly wasn't great. 

He won five PGA Tour events. Big ones, too. Winning the Players and two World Golf Championships would, arguably, be most other professionals most successful season on tour. 

Most, but certainly not Tiger.

Not the man who, at one moment in time, held all four major championships. Not the man who's won 14 of the most coveted prize's in golf. Not the man who has had Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major titles in the forefront of his mind ever since he picked up a golf club at the tender age of two. 

It's well documented, almost too well, that he's not won one of golf's big four since his 2008 US Open victory at Torrey Pines.

But after the coming and going of another PGA Tour season that saw Woods fail to end his five-year winless streak, time has become of the essence. 

He's no spring chicken anymore. He's 38 years old, and while golf is an ageless sport that offers tantalising hope to even 70-year-old's that they might one day break par round their local course, the clock is ticking on his hopes of officially becoming the best ever to play the game. 

Over the last two years, he's had his chances to end the longest major-drought of his career. Since his 18-hole playoff victory over Rocco Mediate at one of his favoured courses in the '08 US Open, he's finished in the top ten on no less than ten occasions. 

He was beaten by South Korea's Y.E. Yang in the 2009 US PGA Championship despite holding a three-shot lead going in to Sunday, the first time he'd ever relinquished a 54-hole lead at a major championship. And ever since, it's been a tale of if's and maybe's for the world number one. He's tied-fourth at Augusta three times in the last four years, close but no cigar, as well a couple of near misses at his self-proclaimed favourite tournament, The Open Championship. 

Ever since the breakdown of his marriage on Thanksgiving night in 2009, Woods has almost played major tournaments in reverse of how he used to.

On ample occasions since his extra-marital affairs were put in the full glare of the media spotlight, he's produced solid golf on Thursday's and Friday's of major championships, before having to watch his challenge ignite and fade in an instant over the weekend through a plugged lie or several mis-read putts.

When donned in his Sunday red, Woods has tried too hard to re-establish his legacy. 

At the end of the last three seasons, critics have emphasised how imperative it is that he gets himself back inside the major-winners circle in the year to come - while at the back of their minds secretly believing no matter what happens, Tiger will beat Jack's record. 

Now, the pressure to triumph at a major this year is at breaking point. 

Luckily for 79-time PGA Tour winner, 2014 offers more hope to Woods than previous years. 

It's common knowledge that Woods excels on certain courses, you just have to look at the amount of times he's won multiple times at places like Bay Hill (seven), Torrey Pines (seven) and Firestone (eight).

Augusta National will always be welcoming to the man with an array of Green Jackets, that's undeniable.

The course sets up well for his game, and his knowledge of the hallowed Georgian turf - a key factor in being able to succeed on America's south-east coast, as many pro's remind us - means he'll always be a threat to the field when April and the first major of the year rolls around. 

Pinehurst, the venue for this year's US Open, has not been kind to Woods in the past. He's never won at the North Carolina course, but managed a second-place finish behind Michael Campbell in 2005 in the second major of the year.

So, it's fair to assume that this ranks lowest in becoming Number 15. 

But that's only because of the venue for this year's British Open, and the season-ending US PGA Championship. 

The Open this year returns to Royal Liverpool golf course, Hoylake, in England's north west, a course Woods has not only been victorious on before, a course he's been dominant on.

His wire-to-wire win in 2005 saw him finish five ahead of Colin Montgomerie, and he only hit one driver all week.

With the obvious improvement in his driving since moving to coach Sean Foley in 2010, as well as the fact he is still the best ball striker on tour, the 2014 Open Championship could well become one of the most iconic majors in recent years if Woods were to triumph. 

And then we come to the final major, the US PGA, a title Tiger has claimed four times. 2014 see's Valhalla play host to Jason Dufner's defence of his maiden major title, a course that also holds good memories for Woods, if not for European golf fans. 

In 2000, when Woods was at the height of supremacy having already slipped on a Green Jacket and claimed the Claret Jug as his own, he went on to make it three majors in a row in Louisville, Kentucky. He wasn't quite so dominant as he had been in England, but overcame Bob May in a three-hole playoff for his fifth major title. 

Now, the Wanamaker trophy will once again be contested at the scene of Europe's 2008 Ryder Cup defeat.

So Woods can have no complaints over the 2014 venues, given his already-sterling record at this year's hosts. 

His winning past on these courses make the coming year even more important for the man once tipped to easily surpass Nicklaus in the major department. If he can't claim the elusive 15th in 2014, when he's won at three of the four courses and finished second at the other one, the writing may be on the wall for his at-times relentless pursuit of Nicklaus at the top of world golf. 

With every year of the previous four labelled a must-win year for Tiger, the margin for error has evaporated in 2013. 

Now, it's a simple fact. He has to win a major this year. He has to. Otherwise when the history books are written, and a father tells his son that Tiger was the best there has ever been, there'll be nothing to stop the son rebuking: "But what about this Jack Nicklaus guy?"

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Topics:
PGA Tour
US Open Golf
Tiger Woods
Golf

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