Once upon a time, Tiger Woods was a terror, and players dared not comment on his game for fear of suffering his wrath at a later date. What happened to Stephen Ames before the WGC Match Play was instructive: Commenting on Tiger’s inconsistency off the tee, Ames said: “Anything can happen, especially where he’s hitting the ball.” Tiger took offense and went on to give Ames a record breaking drubbing, winning 9 and 8—the worst possible outcome. Few were willing to challenge the big cat after that.
That was then. Now, it seems the Tiger now is seen as a pussycat.
Brendan Steele, the rookie who played with Tiger in the final round of this past weekend’s Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines said to Sports Illustrated:
“I don’t think he gave it everything today. Once it started going in the wrong direction, I don’t think it had his full attention.”
So Tiger mailed it in? Not surprising. His play has been unfocused, and lackluster lately. But for a fellow player—and especially a rookie—to say so: unbelievable.
In the old days, you might have expected a full apology soon. Or even one of those “I was misquoted,” or “I was taken out of context” lines. Now, I’m not so sure. Tiger isn’t feared any more; he’s more an object of pity or ridicule. And that’s going to make it even harder for him to overtake Nicklaus.