In a provocative column, Sports Illustrated’s Joe Posnanski runs counter to the prevailing wisdom and says that Tiger may in fact be done.
As far as I can tell NOBODY is writing off Tiger Woods. And, frankly, by all the available evidence, we SHOULD be writing off Tiger Woods.
Look: Tiger Woods, by his standards, has played stunningly mediocre golf this year after taking off a few months to deal with his personal issues. He has not won a tournament — entering the British Open he was zero-for-six. This might not sound like much, but Tiger Woods only plays in the tournaments he expects to win. This year marks the first time since 1998 that he has not won one of his first six tournaments of the year.
Anyway, it wasn’t just that he didn’t win, but that he never came close to winning. He missed the cut in Charlotte, at one of his favorite events. He withdrew from the Players Championship with some sort of neck thing that he has barely mentioned since. He finished an uninspired 19th at Jack Nicklaus’ tournament in Columbus. He played stunningly bad and unfocused golf in finishing 46th as defending champ of the AT&T National.
Yes, people will point out that he finished fourth at both the Masters and the U.S. Open, and he did — nobody suggests that Tiger Woods will turn into a 12-handicapper. But even those fourth-place finishes said something was wrong … he was never really a Sunday threat to win either tournament, even though Augusta National and Pebble Beach are two of his favorite golf courses, places he was meant to dominate. Even two or three years ago, people pointed to 2010 as the year for a potential Tiger Woods grand slam because of those golf courses. Finishing fourth at Augusta (where he has won four times and set the course record) and Pebble Beach (where he won the 2000 U.S. Open by 15 shots) is hardly a sign that Tiger Woods is playing well enough.
Posnanski notes that Tiger turns 35 this year—an age when most begin to lose their game. Tiger also has dominated the game for 12 years—a very long time, when put into historical perspective. His putting has gone south, and putting often is the first thing to go.
In Posnanski’s line of reasoning, the last player to so utter dominate the Tour was Tom Watson. Watson ruled golf from 1977 to 1984, when he won his last major. Since then he has little to show. Oh, he still contends, as witnessed in last year’s amazing Open performance. But he isn’t winning. Watson’s bittersweet line: “I had my time.”
So Posnanski thinks that Tiger’s time has passed.
I happen to agree. And I think I can point to the moment when the passing occurred. No, not the auto accident, but last year’s PGA Championship. Then, Y.E. Yang did the unthinkable: he looked Tiger in the face and took him to the woodshed.
I also agree with all of Posnanski’s reasons why. But I would add one more that I’ve been writing about for some time. Tiger is 35 in human years, but he’s closer to 45 in golf years. Nicklaus says that he didn’t play golf until he was 10 and—this may be apocryphal—didn’t play his first full round until he was 13. Compare that to Tiger who has been swinging the club since he was two, shot a 48 over nine holes at age three and who won a tournament at age 8. Tiger has eight years of golf on Nicklaus at a similar age. So perhaps in terms of wear and tear on the mind and body, Tiger is the equivalent of a 43 year old Nicklaus.
If that’s Tiger’s real golf age, and Nicklaus is the standard, Woods has one more Major left in him.