Saturday, August 7, 2010

At Golf Event Named for Tires -- The Wheels Have Fallen Off Tiger Woods

“Life has changed. I haven’t practiced as much as I used to, nor should I. My kids are more important.”

Buried deep in the field on a course he once seemed to own, Tiger Woods goes into Saturday’s action at the Bridgestone Invitational at Ohio’s renowned Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio near the bottom tied for 72nd place six strokes over par. How far has the once emir of the sport fallen who won his past four entries in the tournament missing the 2008 event for surgery. 2009 was Tiger’s comeback after a season ended when surgery was required ACL surgery on his left knee with a double stress fracture in his left tibia.

A year ago, Woods won six major events finishing #1 on the money list. In 2010, Woods has no major victories and is lost in 74th place in earnings.

We needn’t repeat the soap opera scenario that started with his strange SUV accident last Thanksgiving then all the subsequent revelations, rehab, and media hoopla leading to this April’s Masters where Woods was clearly off the mark only flashing his brilliance occasionally. Since the Masters, 2010 has been an outright disaster. Though Tiger finished 4th at the Masters and US Open, both events showed Tiger was clearly off his game, but in other events, the results have been much worse, not one single top ten finish even failing to make the cut at the Quail Hollow Championship in Charlotte in April. He did not compete in the Players Championship the following week. Aside from the two 4th place finishes noted, his best effort was 19t in early June at the Memorial Tournament. His other results have been ties for 46th, 24th, and 23rd in the British Open.

Tiger Woods has lost his mojo. He doesn’t even look like Tiger Woods. The confident swagger and energy are gone. He looks like a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders. Prior to this week’s competition, Tiger addressed the media noting, ““Life has changed. I haven’t practiced as much as I used to, nor should I. My kids are more important.” As his divorce from Elin Nordegren heads toward settlement in what will be a historical payout, Tiger Woods is a broken man lost in a haze dealing with the consequences his sexual affairs and revelations have thrust upon him.

The fall is so severe and the Tiger Woods of today is so out-of-character for the fellow we thought we knew a year ago, he hardly seems to matter any longer. Each detail of what happens as the details of his personal life works its way off will make the gossip pages. What it seems we won’t see much of is Tiger on the leader boards.

The brooding, fragile creature Woods has become has made him more of a distraction to the PGA than a vital member of the sport’s most honored fraternity.

Who is to say if Woods will regain his form and when? The field is wide open for new leaders to emerge from the likable Phil Mickelson to some exciting new prospects, the game moves on and Jack Nicklaus’s records are starting to look much less vulnerable than they were just a year ago.

At 34 years old, Tiger Woods could still have a brilliant career ahead of him, but how much of his golf was supported by a sense of invincibility and cool? How he will handle rebuilding his life and committing to the intense rigors of returning to the top of the game will evolve as the remainder of the 2010 season continues and in the years ahead.

A year ago, as Tiger dominated the Bridgestone, could anyone ever think he could be the pitiful person he is today?

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