The reports of Tiger Woods’ demise have been greatly exaggerated. Mark it down, you heard it hear first and I’m actually willing to put my money where my mouth is on this one.
After going 0-for-3 in the Majors this year and then compounding his winless 2010 campaign with a 78th-place finish at last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, (an event he had won seven times) many in the media have left him for dead.
And it’s not just the sportscasters and the scribes either, the oddmakers also agree. For the first time since Regis first started asking if people if they wanted to phone a friend, Tiger isn’t the favorite coming into a Major. His stranglehold on the No. 1 ranking is also in serious jeopardy for the first time in years and people are jumping off the Tiger bandwagon quicker than The Titantic.
But has Tiger’s ship sprung a leak or is it taking on water at such a rate that it can’t be saved? Well considering the incredible fall from grace his off-course escapades have brought upon him and the drastic changes in his life that followed, I think it could be argued that Tiger is as good as ever. Consider that after his life-changing “transgressions” came to light, he’s played in eight tournaments and has finished in the top 25 in four of them. He’s played in all three Majors and finished fourth in two of them. For guys like Rory Sabbatini and Woody Austin, two top-10s and three cuts made in three majors is a career year.
I fully understand we’ve all been conditioned to expect more for Tiger and his greatness has justified that. But considering that golf unlike some other other sports, is probably close to 70 percent mental and 30 percent physical, it has to be tough to focus on what’s going on between his ears when his personal life is crumbling around him. I can’t imagine anybody being able to fully block out the chaos that his life has become. Imagine your world turned totally upside down and having to alter everything that was once considered your norm. How quickly could you commit to the new lifestyle, make the necessary changes and find peace both within yourself and alter the perception of those around you? I’m guessing for most it would be a constant struggle and one that would definitely take more than nine months to complete.
I make no apologies for Tiger Woods and I don’t condone anything he did. But I won’t jump on the new bandwagon of Tiger haters either. Those people who have been so jealous of his amazing talents that they now find joy in his struggles. Tiger may never dominate the PGA Tour like he did for most of the last decade but to count him out of any Major is about as silly as some of the choices he’s made.
For the last 15 years or so, me and a friend have a “friendly” wager on each of golf’s four majors. We’ll be making our picks later tonight and with the tournament only an hour and a half away from my house, I’ll also be attending Sunday’s final round. My friend has the first and fourth picks while I’ll be making my selections out of the No. 2 and 3 holes. I’m not sure who my other selection will be but if Tiger is still on the board he won’t make it back to No. 4.
If the PGA Championship is the home of the underdogs and a major that anybody can win who’s to say it can’t happen again this year. If long shots like Shaun Micheel, Rich Beem and Y.E. Yang can shock the world and take down the world-class field assembled at the year’s final Major, who’s to say a now written-off Woods can’t do the same?