Not even three years ago, it was hard to feel bad for a guy like Tiger Woods. He had all the blessings this life could bestow on a professional golfer. Untold fame, fortune, and a beautiful family. And don’t forget his absolute uncanny ability none of us have ever seen before on a golf course to seemingly always hit the miracle shot, and then sink the putt to win. And he did that over and over again for a decade. And then, of course, we all witnessed his fall. The path back to victory has been full of potholes, and finally he’s made appearances back in the winner’s circle.
But, despite his recent victories, there is something so not Tiger like when we watch him play today. His three victories this year included big wins at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Memorial, causing some of us to keep thinking that he’s back. But just as he continually proved he was unbeatable until 2010, he is now proving he is just a guy with a powerful game whose head isn’t always there. Which makes it seem like all those years of dominance were not all about his game – they were a testament to his mind. He fully expected to win. He knew he was going to win. When faced with defeat, it never registered in his mind that he had failed. It seems that his cool mindset, that ability to write off a loss as a fluke, is gone.
This is most apparent in his recent habit of throwing a great start to a tournament during weekend play. It’s almost unbelievable that we’re talking about Tiger Woods here, but it’s not even a surprise anymore to watch him shoot two over par on Saturday and follow that up with an even worse round on Sunday. It’s his new pattern. It’s hard to think of any player in recent history who is more likely to light it up Thursday and Friday, then struggle for pars on the weekend. There’s an old saying on tour: There are two things that don’t last long – one is a dog that chases cars and the other is a pro who chases pars. Tiger has made it clear recently that he is not the same player on the weekend. He feels the pressure. The man who once applied the pressure now crumbles under it more times than not.
So should we feel bad for Tiger? Not really, he’s still the most famous athlete of his time. Has his health and wealth. He will continue to win on the PGA tour. He may even win Majors – especially any played at Augusta or St. Andrews. But that guy we watched win time after time for over a decade is gone. Gone like the hickory shaft. Gone like a wooden driver. There is no long putter for the mind. Tiger is missing the best club he ever had.