Tiger Does Not Offer Value in Tulsa
by Joe Paciella - 08/09/2007
When Tiger Woods steps off of his private jet in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for this year's PGA Championship, he will be close to a 2-to-1 favorite to lift the Wanamaker Trophy at week's end. After dusting the field at the Bridgestone, it seems like this would be the time to bet on the world's No. 1, but hold on…here are a few reasons why you shouldn't.
First, his career record: Tiger has made 43 starts in majors as a professional and won 12 times. That's 28 percent for those of you who don't feel like consulting your calculators. Jack Nicklaus, considered by most as the greatest ever to put on a pair of Foot Joys, started 163 majors and won 18. That's 11 percent. Woods has started about a quarter of the majors Jack did and he's two thirds of the way to the Golden Bear's all-time mark. If Tiger matches Jack's number of starts, on his current pace he would win somewhere in the neighborhood of 45 or 46 majors. There is no way on God's green fairways that Tiger is ending his career with that many majors. He's cooling off at some point.
So it's a good idea to take him all of the time now while he's still winning at this ridiculous pace, right? Betting on Tiger in every major is a sure way to visit the poor house. The best odds you'll probably ever get on him in a major is about 3-to-1. A $100 wager on each major lets you break even for the year, if he continues on his one victory out of four events pace. But two things are now working against you: if the odds shift closer to even money or Woods hits the impending cold stretch and only wins at Jack's clip of 11 percent. You're losing $900 for every 10 majors and only winning once, with odds nowhere near the 9-to-1 needed to break even. The days of making money on Tiger are over…unless you pick your spots.
But Southern Hills isn't that long, he should tear it up. Not really, some tracks are fit for certain players. Southern Hills, playing this week at a fair 7,131 yards, does not demand Herculean length like Pebble Beach, Bethpage, or Medinah's 7,500-yard beast (all places where he has a major victory). However, it does ask, no, tell you to keep it in play and find the right level of the putting surface. Woods favors more open courses like Augusta and the Old Course at St. Andrews, which have areas off the tee that could almost have their own zip code. The fairways here are tree lined and winding. Tiger struggles on courses where a need to find the short grass is paramount, much like at Winged Foot in 2006, his first missed cut in a major as a professional. Woods will probably have trouble keeping his drives out of the thick Oklahoma rough and might be struggling for par all week.
In two bids at Southern Hills, Woods couldn't crack the top 10, finishing tied for 21st in the 1996 Tour Championship and tied for 12th at the 2001 U.S. Open. In fact, his Tour rank in driving accuracy (163rd in 2007 and 145th in 2001) and his putts per round (97th in 2007 and 134th in 2001) offer up very similar numbers.
Lastly, Woods has only made the PGA his first major championship win of the year once ('99), where he gave us the memorable Sunday shootout with Sergio Garcia at Medinah. That win sparked the remarkable stretch of play that made you wonder if he could turn the water in the hospitality tents into wine. He went on to win five of the next six majors. The courses he played didn't matter. He would've won on Jupiter if they held the PGA there. Bottom line: I'm not saying never to bet on Tiger, but he's not in the same turn-of-the-millennium form to take him every week and Southern Hills isn't one of those courses for this horse.