Tiger Woods acknowledges it is difficult to place where 2018 ranks in his PGA Tour career.
He has yet to win in 17 starts heading into this week’s Tour Championship, and would need a victory and some help in order to claim an unprecedented third FedEx Cup title.
Then again, 12 months ago he was recovering from a fourth back surgery and posting pictures of himself chipping and putting on social media with a very uncertain future in professional golf.
Woods played in his Hero World Challenge last December, then embarked on a steady 2018 schedule that saw him progress from struggling to make cuts to a string of top 10 finishes and ultimately qualifying for this week’s Tour Championship and earning a spot on the United States Ryder Cup team.
“In the ‘W’ category, it doesn’t compare to some of the years that I’ve had, where I’ve won eight or nine times in a year,” Woods told reporters at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta on Wednesday. “But to have come off the last few years of little activity and to have qualified for East Lake and to have been as consistent as I’ve been.
“I’ve put together a game from pretty much nothing ... that’s something that I’m very proud of. I don’t know if it’s going to rank up there as one of my top seasons because I didn’t win eight or nine times in a season - two to three majors in a year - but to accomplish what I’ve accomplished, to get back to this point, it’s something I’m very proud of.”
Woods qualified for the Tour Championship for the first time since 2013, and his 18th start this week will mark his second most since turning 30 - he made 19 in 2012. He enters East Lake ranked No. 20 in the FedEx Cup standings, and knows he faces an uphill climb to win the playoffs.
The lowest-seeded player to win the FedEx Cup was Bill Haas (No. 25) in 2011.
“The season itself has been amazing,” Woods said. “To be able to have played this well after coming off what I came off of. Didn’t know how many tournaments I’d play in, and next thing you know, here I am in the Tour Championship. So, there’s some guys that can’t say that they’ve accomplished that, that they’ve gotten into the Tour Championship.”
Woods, 42, has acknowledged that winning is more difficult than it has ever been with the amount of young talent on Tour. He has six top-10s, including two in majors, and a 69.7 scoring average.
Now, it’s about putting all aspects of his game together over a four-day stretch - or even a three-day stretch at next week’s Ryder Cup in France.
“It’s always been something,” Woods said of what has kept him from winning this year. “I haven’t driven it well, I haven’t hit my irons well, I haven’t chipped it well, I haven’t putted well. Just pick one of those things, and it happens to be that particular week.
“I seem to have gotten most of those things going well, but there’s always something missing. It could be any of those facets of the game, and I just haven’t putt it all together at the same time.
“Hopefully that will come together here this week.”
The state of Woods’ game - and more important, his back - has allowed him to look into the future in ways that he hasn’t been able to in a number of years. He said over the summer that he expects his game to be even better in 2019 as he adjusts to his new equipment and what his body is able to do at 42 and with a fused back.
Now, Woods is even fielding questions about whether he can envision representing the United States at the Olympics in Tokyo in two years.
“That would be an accomplishment, to be a part of one of the top American players,” he said. “To have worked my way back to that point. Obviously, it’s two years from now. To have played that consistently, to have played over that period of time.
“Put it this way ... I’d like to see that happen, I just need to go out there and do it. I need to keep my game at the level that it is, maybe refine it a bit more, and stay healthy for that long.
“It’s something that I haven’t done in a number of years, and this is a good starting point.”
—Field Level Media