Over a year ago I predicted that one of the greatest golfers that ever lived would never win another major. I based it on what I believed was his lack of mental toughness. After his withdrawal from the Farmer’s Open held at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California, Thursday, he may never when another PGA event. Has Tiger Woods’ career come to an end?
On the twelfth green in the first round of the Torrey Pines tournament, Tiger Woods called it quits. Woods blamed it on back pain caused by a two hour delay because of heavy fog. He says that his back began to stiffen while he was on the putting green waiting for the tournament to begin.
His overall play was up and down; once again errant shots, particularly chipping, gave him fits. He finished his 11th hole with a double bogey; he never completed his 12th.
Tiger has won 79 PGA tournaments, and 14 majors; but is this the end for the once greatest player in the game? Was today truly a health problem, or was his frustration with his inability to be consistent the true cause for his withdrawal?
Tiger fans such as myself are aware that they are not watching the same golfer who intimidated opponents for years. Will a combination of physical weakness and lack of mental focus force him to end his career?
I do not place the entire blame for Tiger’s failure to rise above the rest on his past personal problems. My first fear is that he is physically unable to compete at the highest level necessary to win in the PGA. If that is untrue, then it is a mental issue. Golf at the professional level is a mixture of talent and mental acuity. An above average golfer with a strong motivation and mental attitude will always defeat talent alone.
Although some experts point to his age, 39, as a contributing factor, I do not believe that is the case. Tiger is physically capable to compete with the ‘young guns’ if his back has truly healed.
Tiger himself has been vocal about his single goal this season; to win the Masters which begins on April 9th. He has many doubters after he posted an 82 at the Phoenix Open just a week ago, and walked off the course today in San Diego County.
Tiger had previously won seven times at Torrey Pines. Is there a golf course that he can conquer on the tour? In previous years his driver has been the worst club in the bag. This year he hired a new swing coach, but so far his pitching, chipping, and putting have been below average.
Let’s face the facts; it’s not all about Tiger and his inability to compete at the highest level; multiple players are as athletic as Tiger, and drive the ball farther, pitch the ball higher and more accurately, and putt with uncanny accuracy. Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Bubba Watson, Ricky Fowler, Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar, Jason Day, and Jordan Spieth have displayed talents beyond Tiger’s in 2015. And there are many more who can remain competitive for a four-day tournament.
For years Tiger set the mark. It appears his day is past. Is this good or bad for the PGA tour? In the short term it will be harmful; television ratings have always been much higher when Tiger is in contention. In the long term the increasing number of talented golfers will find their own large galleries, and commentators will drone on and on about the ‘new breed.’
I will miss the dominant Tiger Woods the same way I continue to miss Brett Favre quarterback the Green Bay Packers, Magic Johnson inspire his teammates on the Los Angeles Lakers to play their best, and Sandy Koufax who could win games for the Los Angeles Dodgers, even if they averaged just over two runs per game. By all appearances, Tiger’s time is over.
Commentary by James Turnage