Unlike so many of Tiger’s opponents over the years, Robert Rock didn’t melt down and give away the win. Instead, he played a workmanlike final round, scoring 70 to Tiger’s 72 for the win. Actually, Tiger finished in a T3 with Thomas Bjorn and Graeme McDowell. Rory McIlroy finished second, one behind.
Based on Tiger’s Saturday play, I thought this one was in the bag. But on Sunday, Tiger was missing the fairways and greens in regulation that he had previously hit. The consistency that he has been talking about abandoned him again. It was almost as if this time, HE was the one feeling the pressure. And why wouldn’t he? Tiger’s still looking for his first legitimate win in more than two years.
Golf pundits (and Tiger himself) are saying that Tiger is “close.” I ask, however: close to what? Close to being the dominant player of old? Or close to being a top ten player?
I think Tiger’s a long way from being the guy who dominated the Tours. I think he instead is close to being a top flight Tour player—a guy who is in contention week in and out. Now that the rest of the field has caught up to him, I think Tiger will discover just how hard it is to win on Tour—something I’m not sure he fully appreciated before. My memory of Tiger’s disposition before the scandal is that he went into each tournament expecting to win, if not dominate. Now, he just doesn’t project that in his body language. I see a guy who gets “down,” not angry; who stares at the ground more than he glares at his opponent (as of old). I think his technical difficulties (if indeed, he even has such) are secondary to his mental slide.
Tiger doesn’t expect to win. He merely wants to win.
There’s a lot of difference in that.