Tiger Woods in 2018: Grading an incredible year on the remarkable comeback journey

Tiger Woods ended his 2018 like he started it, grinding over a round and trying to produce a respectable finish after not playing very good golf for most of the week. Woods finished T23 at the Farmers Insurance Open in January after making the cut on the number. He finished 17th at the Hero World Challenge last week in a no-cut event he hosts in the Bahamas. In between those two tournaments was a whole lot of awesome.

We came into 2018 not knowing what to expect from Woods. He came in not knowing what to expect from himself. So now, after 12 months of golf, seven top 10s, a near-win at a major championship and an actual win at the Tour Championship, it’s time to dish out some grades for Woods, his year and how far he’s come.

Swing: Woods entered 2018 with a swing that wasn’t fully put together. He’s said multiple times that he didn’t feel like he found whatever iteration of the swing he’s currently on until some point in the middle of the year. Whereas we were breaking down his move like it was the Zapruder Film this time 12 months ago, his swing now looks fluid, repeatable and strong. It’s not like his mid-2000s swing, but it doesn’t need to be if he’s going to continue to do this. Grade: A

Progress: I’m bowled over by how much Tiger accomplished in 2018. Not in my most optimistic prognostication did I think he could move from outside the top 1,000 in the OWGR at the Hero World Challenge last year to flirting with the top 10 by Christmas. It’s not just in the statistics, either. Woods built a year he can now build upon again in 2019 and beyond. Dare I say, the future has not been brighter for Woods in a long, long time. Grade: A

Achievements: Two missed cuts. Ok, he’s a habitual grinder. Twelve top 25s. Wow, I did not see that coming. Seven top 10s. Wait, you’re sure you have the right guy? A win to cap the year. A win?! At the Tour Championship with 29 of the best golfers in the world?? Are you positive? A successful year to me in terms of achievement for Woods would have been staying healthy, making a couple of major cuts and spinning things forward to 2019. So, of course Tiger goes out and dusts Rory McIlroy and Co. in the final round of the 2017-18 season for No. 80. Of course. Grade: A+ (I’m going to run out of As)

Durability: It was the big test coming in, and Woods passed with flying colors. He competed in the second-most tournaments he’s entered since 2006 and didn’t have a single withdrawal. 

Still, he admitted recently that the grind got to him by the end. He labored to the finish line, and even though he won, it took a ton out of him (which may be part of the reason he played so poorly at the Ryder Cup). 

“… The will and the want and the desire hasn’t changed, it’s just a matter of is the body willing to do it,” said Woods. “There are days or weeks that they don’t cooperate, so that’s just part of the injuries I’ve gone through and aging. The older athletes just don’t perform as consistently as they once did. I’ve been out here for 20-some odd years.” Grade: A-

Putting: I finally found a category where Woods doesn’t get the highest marks! He finished 39th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained putting for the season, which is fine, but it’s not great. The good news for him is that he got better as the season went on after starting out pretty meekly. Grade: B

Expectations: He exceeded them all. Only the biggest — and most irrational — fanatic on the planet would have predicted anything close to what Woods produced in 2018. Not even Woods expected to accomplish all the things he accomplished.

“I’m done competing, I’m done playing for the year,” said Woods on Sunday. “It’s been a quiet amazing year to go from where I’ve come from and now I can actually finally say I’m done playing for the year. We can sit back and really enjoy it.” Grade: A+

Flair for dramatic: The shot at Carnoustie out of the bunker on the 10th hole was one thing. The PGA Championship was another. But that video of him coming up No. 18 at East Lake with thousands in his wake as he ambled toward something he had done 79 times before but never quite in that manner? Well … that was as historic as it gets. Grade: A+

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