Woods is a Tiger no More
Now that the warmth of the British Open has washed over me like a room temperature pint from a London pub, I’d like to reflect a bit. The realization that Tiger Woods will not catch Jack Nicklaus is more obvious to me than ever before. I’ve been seriously thinking that El Tigre had a slim chance to win 5 more majors and get to that elusive 19th, but after what I’ve witnessed the past 6 months, I’m convinced that Tiger has an ice cube’s chance in Liverpool of getting there. Think of it this way – Phil Mickelson is a Hall of Fame golfer who will go down in history as one of the top 10-15 golfers of all-time. Phil has won 5 majors in his career. For Tiger to pass Jack, he will have to have Phil’s career to date, and it will start at the age of 39. Even if Tiger is one of the greatest golfers of all-time, maybe THE greatest, the likelihood of him now doing what Phil has done to this point, is highly unlikely.
Tiger used to be bullet proof. He won tournaments on sheer domination and intimidation. All other golfers thought they were playing for second place when Tiger was in the field. Over the past 6 years (since Tiger won the 2008 U.S. Open at Torre Pines), Woods has seen his personal life pile into a mailbox and spin out of control, and his professional life evolve into that of a very good, even great golfer, but not the Tiger of old. People will say that Tiger won 5 times on the PGA Tour last season and was the player of the year. That’s true, but all great golfers, and Tiger especially, are judged not by Northern Trust or AT&T titles, but by Masters and U.S. Opens. By that standard he had a very good season last year but not one that measures up.
Aside from Tiger falling down 3 or 4 or 9 rungs on the golfer ladder, the young guns are passing him by. Hell with the young guns, 64-year-old Tom Watson shot a better score than Tiger at the British Open this year. Think about that. Tiger was beaten by a guy 25 years older than him. Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Martin Kaymer, Rickie Fowler and several other under 30’s are all better than Tiger right now. Tiger is in the same class with Matt Kucher, Jason Day and Jim Furyk, way above average on the PGA Tour, but not elite, not the guy who you worry about. Other players now worry about Bubba and Rory and Martin. Tiger is just another good player in the field.
But Tiger doesn’t see it this way. He said before the Open that he was there for one thing. Not to work his way back into shape after back surgery, not to get the rust off. No, he was there to win. It’s the same thing he’s saying about making the Ryder Cup team. He mentioned this week that if he wins his next two starts, at the Bridgestone and the PGA Championship, Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson will have to pick him for the team. Talk about delusional. He shouldn’t worry about winning the tournament right now to impress Watson, he should worry about beating him first. Hell, right now Watson would be better off picking himself for the team that Tiger.