Thinking about selecting Tiger Woods for your fantasy golf lineup?
There are arguments both for and against choosing the game’s most famous golfer. There are some great reasons to draft Woods, but keep these possible detractors in mind as well:
1. An Increasing Injury Risk
It’s an old truism in golf. Back problems have shortened or lessened great golfing careers more than all other forms of injury combined. And now Tiger Woods has back problems. Are they correctible? The surgeons say yes, and you can bet Tiger will train and re-strengthen his body, for but golfers, back problems never seem to go away completely. One could ask pros ranging from Phil Mickelson to Freddie Couples to Lee Trevino; in golf, back injuries take their toll.
One thing that’s seldom commented in on his how hard Tiger swings, relative to many other golfers. That swing itself likely increased his risk of injury. Now that he’s been injured, it can crop up again at any time. Woods has had a couple of other dings in recent years as well. Even when he’s healthy, he now carries a somewhat higher risk, compared with other players, of injuring himself again and dropping from contention or being forced to withdraw. That little bit of extra risk transfers into slightly worse value in fantasy golf.
2. Beware the Rust and Forget the Majors
Due to injuries, time off, and despite occasional appearances overseas, Tiger Woods just doesn’t play as often as one would think. He’s spent much of the spring of 2014 on the injury list, but he’s never been much for golf’s year-end “silly season” and he’s only played in three official PGA events since September of 2013, for combined winnings of less than $90,000, a decidedly non-Tigeresque sum.
It’s hard to imagine that when Tiger returns, he’s going to have his old form any time soon. Maybe he’ll back by the US Open, but probably not. The British Open? That’s more likely, but injuries such as Tiger’s typically require six months’ rehabilitation to return to top form. That leaves only the PGA in early fall, meaning that 2014 is easily odds-on to be another major-less Tiger season.
Adding in all the internal pressure that Tiger seems to place on himself as he chases Jack Nicklaus’s all-time mark of 18 major wins, selecting Tiger for your fantasy team when any of the 2014 majors is on tap just seems to be a low-percentage play.
3. Age Means Inconsistency
Injured or not, golfers play more inconsistently in general as they get older. At the age of 38, Tiger Woods has entered that area where his physical skills and prowess and pro-athlete timing have begun a subtle decline, no matter how much practice or physical training he puts into his game. The line older athletes have to walk grows finer and finer; they risk injury by over-training, and if they under-train, parts of their game slide away from top form.
That inconsistency can crop up anywhere, and Woods has already shown that he’s not immune to the bug. When he first returned to the tour after his long accident/breakup hiatus, the man simply could not hit a wedge pin-high; he went months before he was able to retrain himself to pro standards on that basic pro shot. His famed stinger is the envy of pros and amateurs alike, but he hits it in part because his traditional driver became so inconsistent that hitting that low driving stinger became the better percentage play. And his putting – there are some rounds, even some weeks, when he just does not make putts. The early Tiger drained everything, week after week.
Remember, 38 is 38, golfer or no. If Tiger was a tennis star, he’d long since have been forced off the pro tour and into exhibitions. In the NBA he’d be a doddering, stat-padding drag on some team’s salary cap. Golf allows for longer careers, but his clock is ticking. Young golfers have a greater upside, and that’s a winning element in fantasy golf.
4. An Increasingly Artificial Swing
Tiger’s a chronic tinkerer with his golf swing, and you can bet he’ll be readjusting it yet again in the hopes of alleviating some of the pressure it places on his back, that may have contributed to his recent injury. The last time he emerged from a long layoff, his swing was overly mechanical, and it took months for some of his natural fluidity to return.
So what’s wrong with that? Tiger’s also been committed to a stringent workout regimen, and that’s made him ever more muscular and less wiry and lithe over the years. Extra muscles, less fluidity, and a mechanical swing is just the recipe for those occasional wild swing yips that can send a ball out of bounds at a key moment, perhaps taking him out of contention in a given tournament in the process. Recent years have seen Woods fire a few more of those wildly errant shots than in the “Young Tiger’ days, which all contributes to why he’s not as great a fantasy golf value as he once was.
5. The Epitome of Over-Value in Fantasy Golf
Tiger Woods remains the straw that stirs the proverbial drink when it comes to mainstream sports fans’ interest in golf, and that translates directly into fantasy interest. Woods’ recent back injury was reportedly to have caused an immediate drop of 20% in the total handle of all money bet on professional golf in the weeks surrounding the 2014 Masters.
Many casual fans of golf pay attention only to what Woods is doing, true evidence of his transformation of the game, and that’s why whenever he’s on the course, the cameras follow his every shot. Now, not all of that 20% share which global bookies attribute to Woods injury-caused sidelining would be directly bet on Tiger, either for or against him, but a good share of it is.
Yes, lots and lots of people bet against Tiger, particularly in fantasy golf, but many others, especially casual players, find it hard to resist that name recognition and marquee allure. As a result, Tiger Woods is consistently overvalued; he’s fine in traditional drafts, but in a salary-cap format, he’s seldom a good value. There are times when riding Woods can be worthwhile, particularly at a course where he’s had perennial success, or when he flashes that special “not going to lose” grit that was a larger part of the old Tiger’s makeup.
Having Tiger Woods in your fantasy-golf lineup can be a winning play, but more often than not, the price to obtain him is just too high for the risk involved. He’s still going to draw plenty of interest, but interest and attention isn’t part of the winning formula for a fantasy-golf owner.