December 9, 2013

This is how the story is supposed to go: Tiger Woods leading by a few strokes going into the final round of (you name it) tournament. A couple-two-three folks make a valiant charge to keep it interesting, but in the end Tiger makes some clutch shots and somewhere along the way sinks a killer putt to break their hearts and put the tournament away.

At least that’s how it used to be.

What a finish it was at Tiger’s World Challenge event at Sherwood Country Club yesterday. Rather than me give you the play-by play, I’ll let Shane Bacon of Yahoo! Golf’s Devil Ball Blog give it to you short and sweet (my boldings):

Tiger Woods missing a short putt to lose a tournament? It happened. Zach Johnson hitting an 8-iron from the middle of the fairway to a very accessible pin location only to shank it in the hazard on the final hole of regulation? Yep, that also was part of the bizarre finish in chilly California.

Woods had a four-shot lead over Johnson with eight holes to go on Sunday at his own event, and just when it looked like it was over Johnson birdied the 11th, 12th, 16th and 17th, and then came to the last tied with Woods, and had the advantage after finding the fairway as Woods missed well left.

Tiger had to hit a heroic second shot after missing the fairway to even get the ball on the green, but short-sided himself in the bunker and it was Johnson’s tournament to win.

Johnson, a man known to be deadly with a wedge, had knocked down the last two flags to set up Tiger-catching birdies, and with a green light flag like the 18th on Sunday at Sherwood, it seemed that a birdie was much more likely than a bogey. Johnson [then] shanked his 8-iron into a hazard that basically doesn’t come into play for professionals, and it looked like one of the biggest chokes ever in this event before he hit his fourth shot from the drop zone. The ball spun back in the hole for the par, Tiger could only smirk, and then had to get up and down from a really tough position just to make a playoff.

It was there that we were reminded that this Tiger is not the man who once never seemed to miss a shot or a putt when it mattered. Woods’ approach shot weakly drifted right into that same bunker, a really poor golf swing considering the man and the moment, and after another great shot from the bunker, his par putt went begging and it was Johnson’s title to keep.

That’s right. What’s truly amazing is that after making such a poor shot, Johnson just killed it to a few feet before it rolled into the hole. What’s even more amazing is that, with the whole tournament on the line, Tiger makes yet another crappy approach shot and then plays a little too much break and misses a three-foot putt – the kind of putt any Goodboys would make nine times out of ten.**

** That is, of course, unless the putt is to win the Goodboys Invitational. As the saying goes, if you’ve got a tap-in to win the Goodboys Invitational the only question in you mind is whether to use putter or pull out your driver and give it a whack.

But seriously, folks, one has to wonder exactly what the state of Tiger’s game, not to mention his psyche, is as he rolls into a very important 2014 year, with majors all being played at courses Tiger has won at in the past. Just about everyone – me included – is saying that Tiger needs to take at least one of the major events next year if he hopes to break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors. He hasn’t won a major since 2008, is four back, and not only is he not getting any younger, but he’s lost that sense of invincibility and intimidation that made the greatest golfers on the planet shrink like violets before his charges.

Tiger giving up a four-stroke lead with eight holes to play? Tiger not once, but twice, poorly executing approach shots on 18? Tiger missing a three-foot putt to close the door on another victory? The mind boggles at the thought.

Lots of folks are speculating that Tiger is putting too much pressure on himself during major weekends – he’s relaxed and playing well on Thursdays and Fridays, but come Saturday he doesn’t necessarily trust his swing enough and makes poor decisions that ultimately cost him. That might be true, but Tiger’s World Challenge event is no major, and to see Tiger throw it all away so carelessly has to be cause for concern in his camp. It’s become all too clear he’s become yet another very talented mortal out there on the professional golf circuit, and if you think top golfers like Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Rory McIlroy, and Phil Mickelson are in the least bit intimidated by Tiger anymore you’re fooling yourself. And if you think any number of young up-and-comers don’t go to sleep dreaming of getting their own chance to take down Tiger if and when the opportunity presents itself, your doubly fooling yourself. They may respect Tiger for who he is and what he has done for the world of professional golf, but no one fears him anymore.

And because of that, Tiger’s goal of five more majors has been made that much tougher.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 21:53 | Comments (2)
  1. It’s his approach. He used to attack courses. He would pump his fist and get enthusiastic about positive results. Now he is too cool. He rarely celebrates positive results. More often he groans and shrugs and talks to himself when he makes bad plays. Emphasizing the negative, not the positive. And when it comes to crunch time, that ain’t what you want going through your head. I think his Majors quest is toast, unless he learns to start having fun again on the course.

    Comment by Goose — December 12, 2013 @ 1:29 pm

  2. Thanks, Goose. Maybe a weekend with the Goodboys – at least a round played with Cubby – would set his mind straight!

    Comment by The Great White Shank — December 14, 2013 @ 2:11 am

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