Even the most casual golf fan will know Tiger Woods has been struggling with his game since his 5-win season in 2013, but for the very 1st time since 1996, the former all-conquering Tiger has fallen so far to have dropped out of the world’s top 100 golfers.
A series of injuries, perhaps ill-advised swing changes and now what appears to be a serious case of the chipping yips have seen the 39-year-old struggle to return to the form which saw him spend a record 683 weeks as the world’s top ranked golfer. Tiger is now ranked at 104th in the official World Golf Rankings.
The last time Woods was ranked outside the top 100 in the world was in September 1996. Having just turned pro, Tiger was ranked 225th and after winning the Las Vegas Invitational as a 20 year old, the 1st of his 79 PGA Tour victories to date, he jumped to 75th in the world and later took the number one spot after finishing 19th at the 1997 US Open.
Woods traded the number one spot with various players until at the turn of the millennium, when he took almost total control until his much publicised post 2009 issues; both on-course and off-course.
During his years of domination on tour, Woods smashed a series of records associated with the top spot in golf.
Streaks of 264 & 281 consecutive weeks as world number one are by far and away the longest streaks in the history of the game and his aforementioned total of 683 weeks – a little over 13 years – as the world’s top ranked player is also a record nobody in our lifetimes is likely to come close to. The next closest in the charts is Greg Norman who spent a combined 331 weeks in the number one spot.
Tiger’s reign at number one was so extensive in fact that he is one of only three players who have held the position for at least 52 consecutive weeks. Sir Nick Faldo achieved the feat throughout 1993, Greg Norman pulled it off during 1996 and Tiger? Well Tiger did it in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006….2007….2008…………AND 2009!
Shots like these saw Tiger make the number one position in the World Golf Rankings his own personal property for much of his career.
A measure of his grip on the top spot at various times is also reflected in his 2008 season when he remained the world’s best player despite only playing for 6 months of that particular season.
Another insight into how hard it was for others to wrestle toe top spot in golf from Tiger is that at one particular point in his career, the gap between him and the then 2nd ranked player, Phil Mickelson, was greater than that between Mickelson and the world’s 1000th ranked golfer!
More recently though; we’ve seen a different Tiger Woods. The 14-time major winner carded an 82 at the Phoenix Open in January, a round which he described as his worst as a professional and since returning from injury at the Hero World Challenge in December, the dreaded chipping yips seem to have crept into his game.
Woods has not played since he withdrew from the Farmers Insurance Open on February 6th, saying he will not return to competitive golf until he feels he can “compete at the highest level” once more.
With The Masters just 10 days away, it seems Tiger won’t be teeing it up at Augusta although he has stated that he is “hopeful” of a return at the tournament where he 1st burst onto the scene back in 1997.
Nobody though Tiger would return following his 2009 “transgressions” but after 3 wins in 2012 and 5 in 2013, he was back atop the golfing pile. It remains to be seen whether he has enough left in the tank to get his game in shape and return to the top table once more.