The Tiger Saga Continues…

Posted: May 12, 2011 in golf, Players Championship, sports
Tags: , , , , , ,

Everyone it seems has a theory on what’s going on with Tiger Woods. The truth is no one knows, and that includes Tiger.

Word of Tiger withdrawing from The Players – for the second straight year – after nine holes and 42 shots of the first round dominated the news of the day even as many in the field turned the TPC Sawgrass Stadium course into a birdie fest.

Tiger departed complaining of knee pain, a sore Achilles and cramping calf muscles. In other words, a physical wreck for someone who makes his living as an athlete, even if that athletic pursuit is golf.

And, thus, the wild speculation becomes wilder about Tiger’s future. Again, no one knows.

The anti-Tiger segment of critics point out a list of self-imposed problems that make his future cloudy. Those problems range from the Tiger scandal that rocked his world and destroyed his image as the clean living, hard working, focused athlete; to his obsession with turning his rangy, quick body into that of a muscled athlete; to his obsession with constantly rebuilding his swing despite his incredible success (14 major titles, 71 Tour victories, a record $100 million won in prize money); to simply losing his desire and wanting to enjoy the fruits of his labor.

This group is convinced Tiger is done, certainly as a superstar athlete and celebrity. This group notes he hasn’t won on the PGA Tour in nearly two years; hasn’t won a major since the ’08 Open; hasn’t won anywhere in the world in 18 months.

The pro-Tiger folks talk of his search for perfection and how his body has betrayed him, but how his great talent and drive for success will return once he gives doctors and time permit.

This group thinks Tiger’s quest to beat Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 professional major championships will happen. They point out he is only 35 years old, reasonably young in a sport were historically golfers have peaked in their mid-to-late 30s and early 40s. Latest example: Phil Mickelson.

There’s merit on both sides. As usual, only time will tell.

The next time we’ll likely see Tiger is at the U.S. Open in Washington, D.C. (Congressional Country Club) in mid-June. If Tiger’s physical ailments, mainly his fragile knee are serious, even that will be too early to tell. There is no doubt Tiger will do everything in his power to take his A game to Congressional. The majors are the only tournaments he truly cares about.

Allow me to examine the pros and cons about Tiger’s future.

How has his secret “sex addiction scandal” affected his game? Clearly it rocked his world and changed his priorities. Golf became second to piecing his life back together. But he seemed, publicly at least, to get through it. Many fans cheered his return after his self-imposed absence. He and his ex-wife worked out a seemingly peaceful solution to dealing with their two children.

Why was he so determined to become a workout demon, pumping iron and adding more than 20 pounds of muscle to his body? Insiders have said Tiger always bristled when critics questioned whether or not golfers were true athletes. Comments that golfers weren’t athletes – more like bowlers, race car drivers, etc. – made Tiger obsessed with becoming more athletic. In doing so, he became stronger but less flexible and lost club head speed and control. As The Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee, a former Tour player, pointed out, “The driver only weighs 11 ounces.”

Finally, a golfer constantly changing his swing is about as old as the game itself. Even the greatest champions have feverishly pursued the search for the perfect swing. None, for the record, has ever found it. Some have actually improved their game; most have not. Nick Faldo’s career basically ended because of his constant tinkering.

On the pro-Tiger side, it is true that sometimes even minor injuries can drastically turn 67s into 76s. The margin of error in golf may be the smallest of any sport. The difference between champions, even one as great as Tiger, and journeymen often is as small as a missed 6-foot putt here and a 5-iron from 200 yards being a few feet off line. Once Tiger truly adjusts his swing to his body and has time to completely heal, the Tiger of old – or something very close to it – will return. His does have time on his side thanks to his age. Tiger backers note all of the positive signs, the latest being play at this year’s Masters. Missed short putts at No. 12 and 13 detailed his quest for a 5th green jacket. Those misses had nothing to do with his aching pain or his swing changes.

As for his focus and drive, Tiger’s supporters insist he is more determined than ever to beat Nicklaus’ record of major championships. They point out nothing inspires Tiger more than being told he can’t do something, an inspiration that dates back to his father telling him a black man can succeed in a white man’s sport.

The Players will go on without Tiger. The first-round birdie fest of round one likely will evolve into a struggle for pars by the weekend as the course hardens and plays faster. The great champion will emerge.

The Tiger saga will be put on hold until the U.S. Open.

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Comments
  1. Wyman Stewart says:

    If he lets his body heal, the rest is in his head. Now, if the drug stories are true, then his career may be at an end. Without knowing him, my guess is he is a control freak. The end of his marriage has been something he can’t control; truly a revelation to his life. Hopefully, he will adjust and never go OJ on us.

    Both his personal mentality and golf mentality needs to adjust; not an easy thing for any of us in life. This makes physical pain more painful and makes you more aware of it. Let’s hope he takes care of the body, is and stays drug-free, then finds a healthier way of thinking personally and professionally. Don’t think he’s done that yet, but it takes time.

    Isn’t there a baseball season going on right now, not to mention some NBA Playoffs. How about those Grizzlies? They came out of nowhere. Made me forget the Celtics, Lakers, and what’s that other team, yeah, the Magic, forgot them all. Now, if the Bulls will put LeBron away, then the Grizzlies and the Bulls will have made NBA basketball fun again. H-A-I-R-S-T-O-N should’ve went to Kentucky. Not only can the ‘Cats spell his name, the ‘Cats will be in the Final Four before your Tar Heels. 🙂 (Okay, we’re the only two people in Jax. who care about basketball.)

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