Fight Night Champion’s story mode is garnering buzz for bringing a dose of drama to the normal sports gaming grind. Tiger Woods is also doing its part. No, the game doesn’t have a story mode, and you’re not smashing the back window out of your fender-bent Escalade with your golf club. However, centering the rebuilt career mode on The Masters tournament is a great decision that finally binds a lot of the game’s loose ends under a cohesive structure to chronicle your rise from amateur to PGA Tour champion. It helps turn leisurely afternoons on the greens into competitive fights that bring out the best in the series, making Tiger 12 one of the high notes of the franchise.

The previously separate Tiger Challenges are now integrated into a single career path, and instead of feeling like a club hack wandering around looking for a round of golf in earlier Tiger games, I now feel like a golfer on the rise in charge of his career. From the jump you’re playing in tournaments, working on sponsorship objectives, and setting your sights on the Masters and the PGA Tour. It sounds like a surface alteration to the classic Tiger career structure, but apart from making things more exciting, this has a positive effect on the balance of the game. Playing well in these early tournaments gives you the opportunity to get a big XP bump and therefore the chance to raise your attributes without having to grind as much early like previous games.

It didn’t take me too long to work my way through the amateur ranks, earn a birth to Q school, and even get past the Nationwide tour to get to the PGA tour. I was also making a dent on my worldwide ranking and the year’s FedEx board. But this seemingly meteoric rise doesn’t mean the game lacks meat on the bones. Optional events like Tiger Challenges are built into tournaments on the schedule, and now that getting equipment isn’t tied to money but is unlocked by completing sponsorship challenges (like completing a full round at a course without getting a bogey), there are plenty of content carrots to chase.

This more focused approach to the career mode is mirrored in the gameplay with the introduction of a caddie. Your caddie gives you shot options that take into account factors such as the lie of the ball, weather, course elevation, draw/fade, etc. This is not only useful in speeding up play and making things easier, but the caddie often smartly led me to safer areas of the green with certain approach shots. While the caddie simplifies matters, playing Tiger isn’t easy. Even though your caddie tells you which percentage to hit, actually producing a smooth swing that hits that number is often difficult. I’ve used the practice swing feature more than I ever have in the past. Moreover, your caddie’s info isn’t always rock solid, but improves the more times you visit the course and meet certain objectives. That said, there were many times when I followed my gut instincts and used a custom shot (which is basically like golfing the old way) for better results. I got a better feel for my clubs’ swings and differences in the process. Similar to mid-air spin and other assists, if you don’t like the caddie feature, you can always toggle it off.

Unfortunately, PlayStation 3 owners with a Move controller are hamstrung by the visual disconnect between the controller’s accurate movements and your onscreen avatar. Your backswing often appears choppy, and this gets in the way of judging which percentage you’re swinging at.

Through the years the Tiger franchise has layered on more realistic tour touches like the FedEx championship, the Masters, or the U.S. Open. This year EA’s lined things up and knocked the ball down the fairway straight and true. I think the next step for the franchise is to infuse more of the hole-to-hole drama as players chase each other up and down the leaderboard instead of each hole feeling the same, but this is a great start that makes your Tiger experience feel cohesive. Instead of chasing Tiger as the game’s ultimate end goal, now I feel like I’m building up my own career and writing my own story to the top. That’s a great feeling.


The PS3's Move functionality includes a new first-person camera and the ability to add mid-flight spin, but your onscreen swing isn't smooth.

The career path accommodates different levels of skill. Some might get to the PGA Tour faster than others, but it's not going to take you forever.

XP is awarded for various feats even on a bad round.