A third of season gone, Woods just getting started

Updated: February 25, 2014, 11:21 AM ET
Associated Press

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Imagine being one-third of the way through the PGA Tour season and having a slight edge over Tiger Woods in the FedEx Cup.

"I would say, `God, I'm playing well," said Joe Ogilvie.

Except that he's not.

But he does have a slight edge over Woods, who is hardly playing at all.

The points distribution system goes down to the very decimal. Ogilvie finished in a two-way for 74th at the Phoenix Open, but because one full point is awarded only to 70th place, he earned 0.91 points. Woods did not make the 54-hole cut at Torrey Pines and finished in a two-way tie for 80th, thus receiving 0.79 points.

So at least Ogilvie has that going for him.

"It is amazing that we're one-third of the way through the season," Ogilvie said. "But he's playing the Honda Classic, so I know he's looking at the stats and saying, `If I can just get ahead of Ogilvie, I should be OK for the rest of the year."

Woods has said he's having a hard time getting his head around the wraparound season that started in July. That should start to clear up this week at the Honda Classic, which the No. 1 player sees as the start to his season.

The Florida Swing is better known as the road to the Masters, and it's time for Woods to get into gear.

He's in good company, of course. Masters champion Adam Scott, who has played twice as much as Woods this season on the PGA Tour (that would be two tournaments) is holding steady at No. 101 in the FedEx Cup. He's three spots ahead of Rory McIlroy.

That's what prompted NBC Sports analyst Johnny Miller to effectively dismiss the three wins this season by Jimmy Walker, the winners of the tournaments last fall (which include Webb Simpson and Dustin Johnson), or even the 64-64 weekend by Bubba Watson when he won at Riviera.

"We've had a lot of good stories," Miller said. "But I think now the guns are back and probably ready to do something in the next couple weeks. So I don't see players that maybe are the second-tier players ... I think the big boys are warmed up and ready to go."

Some of them are, anyway.

Scott followed his amazing run Down Under with a pair of top 10s in Hawaii before taking a six-week break. McIlroy had chances to win at Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Woods is the mystery, though it's early, even if the PGA Tour's new schedule says otherwise.

He has played only four times since the Presidents Cup last October -- the Turkish Airlines Open, his World Challenge against an 18-man field, Torrey Pines and Dubai. He missed the 54-hole cut at Torrey Pines with his worst score in America (79), and he tied for 41st in the Dubai Desert Classic.

Woods said he spent most of the offseason "trying to get my body organized," and he said his game was slow to come around. But he's playing three of the next four weeks, including title defenses at Doral and Bay Hill.

Even with 14 tournaments already in the books, there is a sense the PGA Tour season is just started.

Besides, at this stage in his career, it's all about being ready for the majors for Woods.

He is not unlike Jack Nicklaus at age 38. Nicklaus played only five times before the Masters in 1978, and he played two events a month in the heart of the season (February through August). Then again, Nicklaus didn't have to worry about a FedEx Cup at the end of the year in which most players will be asked to compete seven times in nine weeks, all big tournaments. It would not be surprising for Woods to consider skipping a playoff event.

Woods rarely goes to a tournament without hearing some mention of being stuck on 14 majors -- four short of the Nicklaus standard -- since 2008. Expect to start hearing even more of that speculation with Augusta National around the corner.

Miller said last month that how Woods fared in the Masters would be a precursor to the rest of his year in the majors. During a conference call Monday, the two-time major champion made it sound as though the task were tougher than ever.

"Before it was like if he had his `A' game, you could just kiss it off," Miller said. "It wasn't going to happen. He was just so much better than everybody and so much better under pressure and so much better on Sundays and so much better in the majors. It was not a fair fight, as Roger Maltbie would say."

That was Maltbie's famous line from the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach after Woods hit 7-iron out of the rough on the par-5 sixth hole to 15 feet. He won by 15 shots.

"Now, it's a fair fight, wouldn't you say?" Miller said.

He asked that of Notah Begay, a close friend of Woods who also works as an analyst for NBC. Begay agreed, saying "his game has come back down to Earth a little bit."

"Prior to everything that's happened away from golf, if you were to pace your game according to Tiger Woods, you knew you were going to be around the top 10 and probably most likely near the lead," Begay said. "And I don't think that's the case right now."

That would be good news for those trying to challenge Woods -- and bad news for Ogilvie.

"I just hope Tiger can pass me," Ogilvie said.

The sarcasm was heavy and the message was clear. No matter what the schedule says, it's early. Golf is just getting started.


Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index

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