Awhile back I wrote that I was hoping Tiger Woods wouldn’t break Jack’s record of 18 total majors won. I’m feeling a little more confident of that semi-prediction after seeing Tiger go 0 for 3 in majors so far this year with some of his favorite courses (Augusta, Pebble, and St. Andrews) lined up for him to win, err, lose. We thought he might be holding all four championship trophies by the end of the year, but now we will probably be surprised if he is even holding one. Will he ever win another major again? Ok, that’s probably a bad question, since I’m sure he’ll win at least a couple more over the next decade, but at St. Andrews we saw him do something he’s never done throughout his entire career; question his abilities. For the first time in over a decade of dominance he changed his putter just before the tournament and opted for a Nike putter over his trusty Scotty Cameron, and then on Sunday, he inexplicably changed back to his old trusty Scotty Cameron. It was like Lebron’s choice to make his decision on national TV. Well thought out, but ultimately a bad idea. Does this mean Tiger is starting to blame his equipment for his deficiencies on the course? Is this a sign that he isn’t confident in his abilities, and is looking for new equipment to make up for it? Nearly every guy on the tour changes their swings and equipment to get better, but we never have heard about Tiger changing his trusty putter that sunk everything within ten feet at every critical moment throughout his career, so I’m thinking he’s starting to doubt himself at least a little for more reasons than just the putter switch.
Besides majors this has been the longest stretch we’ve ever seen him go through without winning a tournament (regular or major). He’s stumbled in events that he’s dominated for years, and this year was the perfect set up for him to hold the Tiger Slam once again. We’ve all heard about his divorce and legal troubles, which has to hurt his mindset some, but the great ones usually use their sport to get away from their problems. Succeed through the turmoil is the MO of a true Alpha. We know Tiger is an alpha, and we’ve seen Tiger overcome injuries, and his father’s death to continue to succeed, so I feel like he’s been tested along those lines. These recent troubles is a different animal that he has no real control over, but when I’ve watched him, he still looks focused on the course, maybe slightly more pissed off than he used to be (probably because he’s not winning), but all in all he seems to have his head on straight. We still see robo Tiger in the press conferences, so no changes there either. We never really knew what he did off the course since he’s so private with everything, so no changes there either.
The decline of Tiger is extremely hard to grasp, since everyone will be picking him to win the PGA Championship, but is he really the right guy to pick? I’m not saying I can pick the winner out of my hat, but putting money on Tiger right now isn’t a wise investment. Some say he’s been a contender in the majors finishing in the top five twice, but was he really a factor on Sunday? Not so much. Something else is wearing on him, and maybe after arguing about Kobe getting old, we should start the argument on whether or not Tiger is getting old.
Just looking at the guy, his appearance has changed, he grew that nice Jordan-like (I don’t care what people think of me) moustache for a little bit. Maybe it was to compensate for his overly noticeable receding hairline. At 34 soon to be 35, maybe his time is up for being dominant. There’s a pretty small list of guys that have won majors past the age of 32, and the road isn’t going to get easier for Tiger. He’s already had to remake his swing once to put less pressure on his knee. He had a third surgery just two years ago, and maybe that knee only has so many more of those 110% swings left in it. Although he’s more fit than I’ll ever be, his body can’t be what it used to be. We all know as you get older you can’t do the same stuff you could at a younger age. Maybe that restructured knee is preventing him from doing some things out there that he used to do without even thinking twice.
A factor I look at in Tiger getting to Jack’s record is he has never been anything but a frontrunner. When people start doubting him, how will he handle it? Everyone still picks him to win the PGA Championship, but is he really the odds on favorite? For years we’ve been able to pencil him in for a win in any of tourney he plays in, because we all know he ONLY enters tournaments that he thinks he can win. He’d usually make you look stupid for picking against him, and I’m sure I did many times. Now that he isn’t the clear favorite, his looming shadow over the field isn’t nearly as intimidating. When he was at the top of his game, he made other guys feel uncomfortable, and try to make shots that weren’t in their bags. Now guys aren’t going to fear him as much, and will play their game without trying to “catch” Tiger.
Another thing I look at, is who are the up and coming golfers? Tiger has affected golf in more ways than I can recall any athlete transcending a sport. Maybe Jordan with basketball shifting the league from team to star oriented, but Tiger came to us in the internet age and has dominated a sport that isn’t dominated as easily as he made it look. It’s been over a decade since he made his first impressions on us, and a lot of the kids that were 6-10 years old when he broke onto the scene are now starting to compete with him. The Tiger effect on golf is finally here. We have guys like Rory Mcilroy, Dustin Johnson, Ryo Ishikawa, Jason Day, Anthony Kim, etc. There’s a much bigger list of talented golfers under 27 year old that might not be winning majors yet, but they are taking down a lot of the regular tourney’s that we saw Tiger dominate over the years. I’d be naive to say it’s over for Tiger, but after showing us he’s mortal, I’m pretty sure we will never see the same Tiger we saw for the first half of his career. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the downfall of Tiger, since I never liked him, even back in the early 2000’s. Golf needs him though, and I hope he does play well again. I’ll be the first to admit, it’s not nearly as fun rooting for him to fail when he’s 10 strokes off the lead. Who knows, if he sucks for a couple years, and makes a dramatic comeback to win a bunch of tourney’s and majors maybe he’ll finally win me over…