Tiger Woods at the crossroads?

Yeah, it always seems to be like that with Tiger Woods. He finishes 2nd, 3rd, 4th all the time, but just somehow can’t win. - my mother a few months back

People are saying he hasn’t won, he hasn’t won…I mean, so what? He’s always up there, in the top 5. It’s not like he’s dropped off the face of the earth or anything. - my mother last Thursday

Well, it’s official. Tiger Woods has his worst ever finish in a major, 39th (and it would’ve been 48th except for a couple of tremendous birdies at the very end). It’s also his worst ever cumulative score for the four majors in a calendar year, and the first time he’s ever been over par for all four rounds. One of the things that really struck me was how someone who made the impossible recovery shot his signature couldn’t handle the deep roughs to save his life. (Man, those were some awkward follow-throughs.)

After an unbelievable 2001 when he was -53 for the majors and would go on to complete the “Tiger Slam”, who would’ve guessed that he suffer such a dramatic dropoff. Simply put, he’s no longer the man…a fact that becomes simply incredible when you realize who is winning. (If I’m not mistaken, we’ve had two golfers to have a major as their first ever win this year.)

It’s clear that his knee’s been bothering him more than he lets on. And there’s evidence that, thanks to his loyalty to Nike, his equipment really is inferior (although Lefty had absolutely no business harpign on this). More than anything, though, there’s the pressure. All those incredible tournaments set the bar so high, there’s no way he can clear it now.

Looks pretty bleak, huh? Well, consider this:

He has three wins so far this year, this despite playing just 13 events.
He was 4th in the British Open and could’ve won it with a couple more breaks.
He’s owned the money title for ages and is currently #2 this year. With so many big names now struggling with consistency, there’s a good chance of winning it again.
He has a stranglehold on the #1 ranking. Again, with no one else that good from week to week, he’s not in any danger of relinquishing it for quite a while.

The question is, is this enough? No matter how good he is compared to the field, his fans expect him to win, especially the big tournaments. The pressure’s not going to get any easier. He’s been a tremendous boon for golf, but my prediction of retirement before 40 is starting to look like a possibility.

What do you all think? Can he find the motivation to keep playing after sub-par tournaments like this (especially since he obviously doesn’t need the money)? Should he soldier on to the bitter end for the league and his fans?

(Side issue: I remember how he was supposed to inspire an influx of minorities into golf. Are there any signs of a possibility of this happening on any serious level? Like the minor tours, like Hooters, or even college.)

Yes, if he has a competitive bone in his body. Tournaments like this are only going to make him want to play more.

No, he doesn’t owe anything to the fans; Tiger does enough for them. I’d be willing to bet that he plays for a long, long, time - for himself.

People can’t rightly expect him to keep up the pace he was on through the 2001 season, that’s just plain rediculous. Tiger was bound to come back to earth and this is just him evening out. He will win more majors, and he will have more 2001 seasons, just not every season (or every 2 seasons). There are also going to be more seasons like this one. He is still the best golfer on the planet, this week just proves that he isn’t perfect - and that only makes me like him more.

If his irons are the problem, you know Nike is going to fix. If it came out that his irons were the problem, that would be horrible for business.

I don’t know all that much about Tiger’s health. If his knee truly is bothering him, there’s your explanation for what happened this week. However,even when Tiger was winning major after major, you would still see a drive a little left or right every now and again and on this course, that isn’t an option.

Aside: This was one of the worst majors I’ve ever seen. I think you have to allow the golfers more than one option when you hit it into the rough. Having rough like that is okay, just not when it’s every single inch of the course that isn’t fairway or green.

Well, DKW, I think Tiger retires by age 40 when he’s won 19 majors. He has stated on many occassions that he wants to be known as the greatest golfer who ever lived, and to do that, he needs to supplant the current GGWEL, Nicklaus, who has 18. I think you forgot Tiger’s win in the Western Open a few weeks ago, he has four wins on tour this year.

Which brings up a point. For many golfers, four wins in a year is a career, yet with Tiger, he’s in some kinda slump?!? What’s up wit dat? Has he raised our expectations so high that DLIII can have a 4 win year and it’s the greatest in his nineteen year career, and Tiger’s seventh year on tour he wins four and it’s ho-hum.

I agree with ya DKW on Tiger’s knee, I bet it’s still not 100%, but he’s not letting on as it would be perceived as an excuse. The guy used to hit balls all day long, and with the knee, he can’t practice near as much as he did last year. I look for him to get that knee healed and his 2004 year could rival his 2001 year. Not winning player of the year is going to give him some serious motivation (of course I’m projecting here, the general consensus is ya gotta have a major for POY).

As for needing the money, yeah, he does, for his Tiger Woods Foundation. He may retire tomorrow and live comfortably on his earnings and endorsements, but he wants the continuous flow into his Foundation’s coffers.

I think the minority thing is not going to begin bearing fruit for a few years yet, as some of the potential players may just now be getting into high school. After watching the US Am and Junior Am, there’s still not a lot of diversity in the 17 and up age group (for the guys that is).

I agree with drm on the course setup, it was absolutely brutal. It was setup like a US open, where the philosophy is if you miss the fairway, it’s gonna cost you a shot, at least. It can be kinda boring watching guys chip out sideways, it takes imaginative shotmaking out of the bag. However, I thought it was pretty exciting capped by Micheel’s unbelievable shot on 18.

I saw a little bit with Kenny Perry on the morning part of the tournament. He’s doing fantastic this year – and he won three tournaments. And won three times in the previous 17 years.

Just as a comparison.

It’s too early to speculate. On the one hand, Jack Nicklaus had streaks like this where he just didn’t win. On the other hand, Tiger could end up being a Kurt Warner.

Memo to golf televisors: there are more people on tour than Tiger, and they are even winning this year. Instead of biatching about Tiger not being there for your ratings, how about telling people about the other guys? Tiger’s not the only interesting person who plays golf. Actually, in terms of personality, Tiger is downright boring.

Golf is a statistically driven game. When all the good players can drop the ball into a circle with a radius of 20 feet all day long with a seven iron, and Tiger can drop it within 15 feet, then on average he’s going to get more close shots than the others. But there is still room for variance, for bad rolls, bad gusts of wind, etc. Given that, even the best players in the game are going to take their share of bad breaks and have things not go their way.

And vice versa, occasionally a rookie will come out and shoot his ball into the 30 foot circle he can hit, but through sheer variance he’ll drop it within inches of the pin a few holes in a row and birdie out or eagle it. It happens.

Take Micheel’s shot on the 18th. If he set that shot up 100 times, you’d find his balls scattered randomly around the whole in a circle of a size that matches his skill level. I’ll bet if Tiger did the same thing, his circle would be smaller. But on THIS day, Micheel dropped it inches from the pin. That’s just luck. There’s a lot of that in golf.
Also, the field is catching up to Tiger in skill level. That’s usually the way it goes - a great athlete comes along and sets the bar at a new level. This causes the young generation below him to work harder to achieve that gold standard. I was listening to an interview with Micheel, and he was saying that some tournament last week on the national tour was won with a -29 under. He said he didn’t think he could even compete on that tour right now, and he’s in the PGA. The next generation of golfers is getting better, and Tiger’s going to start getting older and less ‘hungry’. We may never see him be quite as dominant again.

But he’s still the best golfer in the world. By far.

Oh well, at least Tiger hasn’t gone the Ian Baker-Finch route of 1991. Poor old Ian - he won the British Open that year, and was justifiably applauded the world over as one of the sweetest swings in the history of the game.

But then he started making changes to his swing in persuit of a supposedly superior game - and slowly but surely he ruined his game - never to be competitive ever again.

Eventually he had done his own head hin so big time that he retired from the sport as a young man - forever haunted by his own ghosts of potential lost.

Yeah, that’s another thing about golf. The precision required is just phenomenal. Think about it - to hit a golf ball with the exact speed and angle to make it travel hundreds of yards and drop within a small circle. Very subtle changes in stance, stroke, grip, strength, and other things make huge differences. So golfers never stay that consistent. How often have you heard of a golfer having a ‘rebuilding year’? Their swings change, they lose confidence, whatever. Then it’s back to square one. It’s a tough game.

Oh well, at least Tiger hasn’t gone the Ian Baker-Finch route of 1991. Poor old Ian - he won the British Open that year, and was justifiably applauded the world over as one of the sweetest swings in the history of the game.

But then he started making changes to his swing in persuit of a supposedly superior game - and slowly but surely he ruined his game - never to be competitive ever again.

Eventually he did his own head in so irreversibly that he retired from the sport as a young man - forever haunted by his own ghosts of potential lost.

Sorry Sam, I somehow double posted there. I saw your name after mine, not realising you’d responded a 2nd time!

First, some perspective: when Justin Leonard or Jim Furyk is in a “slump,” he misses a lot of cuts and doeesn’t win a tournament for 2 or 3 years. When Tiger Woods is in a slump, he wins 4 tournaments, and is usually within striking distance of the lead when it’s all over.

So, I have no doubt that he’s still the best golfer in the world, that he’ll win many more tournaments, and several more majors. I don’t think any of his competitors doubts that for a second.

That said, something HAS changed. It’s partly that Tiger’s knee is hurting more than he lets on, it’s partly that the rest of the players on tour have elevated their games… but it’s something else, too, something for which every player on the PGA circuit has to thank Rich Beem! Everyone respects TIger tremendously, but almost nobody is intimidated by him any more.

FOr several years, you could see that other players were terrified by Tiger. You could practically hear them thinking, “My best game won’t be good enough, if he gets on a roll.” Many a time, we’ve seen excellent golfers fall to pieces when Tiger started making a move. Other times, normally steady, cautious, smart golfers started taking crazy, foolish chances, because they felt they HAD to shoot loads of birdies to keep up with Tiger.

I think that Rich Beem changed things, not only because he refused to let TIger scare him at last year’s PGA, but because Beem didn’t change a thing he did, even as TIger made a big charge. Beem decided to just play his game, and defied Tiger to beat him.

I think the others pros on the tour have decided to do the same thing. Instead of saying, “I have to shoot the greatest round of my life to have ANY chance,” they’re now thinking, “I’m going to play my game, and we’ll see if Tiger can top me. If he’s on fire, well, I’m probably dead meat. But if it’s close, I can beat him.”

Thanks, y’all. Pretty much what I expected.

Again, he’s cooled off a lot, but until his world ranking starts taking a big hit, I don’t think anyone should talk.

The thing is, while there have been a lot of surprise winners this year, no one golfer has been really dominant. I don’t see him relinquishing the top spot for a long time.

Elwoodcuse wrote:

The problem with that Elwood is that Tiger playing or in contention puts fannies in the seats and eyeballs on the screen. For example.

BF: I am well aware of Tiger’s drawing power. My point is, golf TV would do well to talk about the other guys too, so that in case Tiger (gasp!) isn’t there on Sunday afternoon, the casual golf fan would still have an interest.