The final piece of Tiger’s comeback puzzle
THE MERE sight of Tiger Woods wearing red was at one point enough to leave his competitors quaking in their boots.
If Tiger was wearing red, then it was Sunday.
And if it was Sunday, and Tiger was teeing off in the afternoon, then he was probably going to win - something he did 79 times on the PGA Tour, and 12 times internationally in 17 years to be exact.
But for all the things Woods has finally recaptured in his latest comeback this year - monster drives, spectacular ball striking and his trademark 'stinger' - his fearsome Sunday self remains elusive.
Ahead of this month's US Open, Woods has developed a very anti-Tiger trend on Sunday afternoons, faltering late on three separate occasions after starting the fourth round from within five strokes of the lead.
His latest fizzle came on the weekend at the Memorial Tournament, where he entered the final round five shots back, but could only shoot an even-par 72 to finish in a tie for 23rd.
Prior to this year, Woods ruthlessly converted strong 54-hole positions into wins at an alarming rate.
Woods was in, or within one shot of, the 54-hole lead 69 times in his career before 2018.
He won 62 of those occasions - a conversion rate of 89.9 per cent.
So far this year, he was one shot behind going into the final round of the Valspar Championship in March, but finished tied for second, a shot behind winner Paul Casey.
Woods was then storming home at the Arnold Palmer Invitational the following week but killed his momentum by snap-hooking his drive on 16 out-of-bounds.
He ultimately couldn't do better than a tie for fifth and finished eight shots behind winner Rory McIlroy.
Then last Sunday, he missed three short putts and blasted his tee shot on 13 out-of-bounds to once again end his chances of an 80th PGA Tour title.
These failings came from the same Woods who twice sunk clutch bombs of more than 20 feet to win the tournament at Bay Hill, or - most notably - pulled off a seemingly impossible chip from the back of Augusta National's 16th green with the Masters on the line.
He even boasts an astonishing 15-2 record in playoffs on the PGA and European tours, and a perfect 3-0 in majors.
Woods' greatest and most memorable moments have all come on Sundays, even if statistically he was just as strong on every other day.
Now his wedges are dialled in, he's long off the tee, and there are even a couple trademark fist pumps per round, but ultimately, he's not winning.
Much of that is to do with a bout of putting yips, and the occasional wayward drive off the tee, brought on by a lack of competitive golf in recent years due to a crippling back injury.
But should the rough around the edges be smoothed, the sight of Tiger wearing his lucky colour will be feared once more.
Woods is hoping to iron out the creases in his game in time for the US Open, which starts on June 14.
And although he particularly struggled with the putter at Memorial, the 14-time major champion believes his ball-striking still leaves him in good shape.
"I keep getting a little better," Woods said after the tournament at Muirfield Village, which included a 95-yard eagle.
"Week in, week out, I keep getting just a little bit more finetuned.
"For instance this week, just to be able to make the slight adaptations after the first nine holes and be able to flip it around and shoot a respectable number.
"This week I didn't really have, didn't feel comfortable with my lines, and my feel was a little bit off. Consequently I missed a bunch of putts.
"But I hit it really good this week, so that's a positive going into Shinnecock, where ball striking is going to be a must."
Woods has won the US Open three times, the most recent being in a playoff against Rocco Mediate in 2008.