Last year I made the statement that Tiger Woods would never win another major tournament; now I’m sure of it. I am not a ‘Tiger hater,’ just the opposite. Tiger changed golf forever and made it a sport rather than a game. I have watched him carefully since he returned to the PGA after the events of Thanksgiving 2009. Although he is nearing the 40-year-old mark, he appears to be in excellent physical shape. His back problems have been exacerbated by poor ball striking. A swing which is pure does not result in errant shots or inflicted pain. Tiger’s problem is entirely mental; he doesn’t need a new swing coach, he needs to play the game of golf; plainly put, I believe that he is overthinking every part of the game. He has forgotten that the bottom line is that it remains a grown man’s game and it should be fun. With Tiger likely out of the picture, who will be the man to step forward and increase television revenues?
Looking at the large number of extremely talented professional golfers, one would think that added together they would spike interest in the game; unfortunately the situation has produced the opposite effect. Without an Arnold Palmer, Chi-Chi Rodgriguez, Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus, or Tiger Woods to watch, no matter how talented the remainder of the field may be, there’s no front runner to cheer for or against.
Yesterday Brandt Snedeker won the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Unless you are among the small number of avid golf fans, you may not have known that fact. He played brilliantly, as he did two years ago prior to an injury. His swing has improved and he has always been one of the best putters in the game. In addition, he is a quiet and exceptionally fine young man.
Although his consistent play resulted in a three-stroke victory, the gallery following him was half of the size it would have been if Tiger was in that position. Nick Watney and Charlie Beljan finished second and third; I doubt many readers have ever heard of them. The player’s names most sports fans probably recognize are Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickleson, Ricky Fowler, and Rory McIlroy; all able to win any tournament they enter. But none of these as yet has a ‘brand name.’ Phil would be the closest, but his age is beginning to be a factor.
If you failed to watch this weekend’s tournament, you missed some incredible golf, and scenery that was breathtaking. And you missed an opportunity to see Snedeker at his best.
Last week Tiger announced that he was taking a break to work on his swing. I doubt this statement is entirely accurate. Remember, I am a Tiger Woods fan. I don’t believe he has the desire to play the game at a highly competitive level any longer.
With the exception of the MMA exhibits, which are no more than street fighting events staged for the public to make money, professional sports require athletes to be focused one hundred percent of the time. Anyone who has been involved in any event in their lives where the competition is at its highest level has learned that mental effort is more exhausting than physical effort.
I no longer see the fire in Tiger’s eyes; I’m uncertain if he wants to make the effort needed to win.
I truly hope I’m mistaken. I enjoy watching many PGA players, but nothing was as much fun as when Tiger was at the top of his game.
Commentary by James Turnage