Tiger Woods has only played Liberty National Golf Club twice in his career, and both times he’s been beaten by just one person. In 2009, Heath Slocum clipped him by a stroke. In 2013, it was Adam Scott — again by one. Both instances were at a tournament called The Barclays, which is now The Northern Trust, this week’s event being played at Liberty National.
It would be surprising if Woods found that level of success this week on this course based on recent form and current health. Woods hasn’t truly contended in an event since the Masters in April which — not sure if you know this — he won. He’s also limping into The Northern Trust with physical limitations. Well, not literally limping but also not far from it. Woods didn’t take full strokes for at least part of his pro-am on Wednesday at Liberty National as he deals with some back stiffness.
“It’s best to be smart about it,” a stiff Woods told reporters after his pro-am, echoing what he’s said at nearly every event since the Masters. “This is kind of how it is; some days I’m stiffer than others.”
I’m not sure if I would have been more surprised in January if you had told me Tiger would win the Masters or if after that he would do nothing at all. Both are shockers to a system still unfamiliar with what to do with this version of Woods.
“As I’ve said to you guys all year, this is how it is,” Woods added to reporters. “Some days I’m stiffer than others. Yesterday I was out there hitting it great. Driving it out there with Brooksy and D.J. Today, I’m stiff. Hopefully I’m not that way [Thursday].”
Tiger only has so many swings left. We know this. He knows this. Only he will admit it, though. And I’m fine with him not spending them in practice rounds in New Jersey in the middle of August.
Heck, maybe we’re at the point where Woods should only play the majors. That’s basically what he’s done this year from March on, and even that has seemed taxing. Who knew that a Masters win — of all things! — would prove to be the thing most revealing of just how much he struggles to rev this once-perfect engine.
But here we are, four months later with seemingly more questions than ever. Woods won’t have answers this week or next, and I don’t expect him to. He is what he is — a brittle golfer who can’t roll with the best in the game without putting his body through the wringer. He seems unwilling (maybe even unable) to do that for a playoff event nobody will remember — and he should — because it’s April and May and June and July when I want to see him roaring. Might be time to play for just that.