It was a little strange watching the Waste Management Phoenix Open. This event is fun for fans, and enjoyable for most golfers as well. Unlike any other venue in professional golf screaming and yelling for your favorite player is encouraged. The 16th hole is surrounded by a ‘stadium’ filled with boisterous fans. And the players interact with them. Footballs and Frisbees have been tossed back and forth, among other items. But what amazed me was watching Tiger Woods attempt to play golf. He struggled from the very beginning, looking more like he was an amateur rather than the winner of 14 major tournaments. Not a single aspect of his game could be considered average. He ended up with his worst score as a professional golfer, 82.
Tiger missed his 13th cut as a professional. Possibly the strangest action by Tiger was his lack of anger; he often exhibits severe frustration after a poor shot. Instead, he was smiling throughout most of his play.
Long ago I wrote an article claiming that Tiger would never win another major tournament. He remains and will remain four behind the legendary Jack Nicklaus. He hasn’t been in contention for a major since his overly publicized domestic incident in 2008.
This was only the second time in 303 PGA starts that Tiger failed to break 80; the last time was at the 2002 British Open when he played in horrendous weather conditions.
Tiger recently changed swing coaches; I would love to hear the conversation between Chris Como and Tiger on Saturday.
A post-round interviewer asked Tiger how he was able to smile, laugh and joke while having such an unpleasant round of golf. He said that some days are bad days and you simply have to enjoy the beauty around the course.
At one point Tiger was 27 strokes behind the leader. After two rounds he ended his play for the week at 13 over par, and 23 behind the leader.
Often when Tiger has a difficult round writers can point to a single problem; frequently his driver. Thursday and Friday this was not the case. Driving was a problem, but his entire game was simply missing. His iron play, chipping and putting were horrid.
Tiger continued to have a large gallery following him around the course. Continuous cheers of encouragement were heard from the throng. But at 39, gone is the golfer who instilled fear in his opponents and ran away with tournaments.
Regardless of how Tiger’s career ends, or the number of total victories and major wins, he will be remembered for changing the game of golf. Most younger golfers are constructed in the image of Tiger Woods. He turned a ‘gentleman’s’ game into an athletic event. Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, and dozens of others are able to hit the ball higher, farther and straighter than ever before.
Although so far none of the ‘new breed’ has reached the level of stardom Tiger maintained for many years, competition is the best it has ever been.
Rory and Jordan Spieth are the current young challengers for the title of ‘best in golf.’
Is Tiger finished? That’s very doubtful. He has always been one of the most competitive athletes in all of sport. Will he win a major this year? Also very doubtful; he appears to have lost not only his swing, but the most important quality a professional must possess; mental toughness.
By James Turnage