by Jeff Skinner
It’s strange how different people can look at the same thing and have very different opinions of the same circumstance. Any time a golfer finishes in the top ten of a major championship it should be considered a success. A top ten finisher gets an automatic exemption into the following year’s event, a big fat check, a bunch of world ranking and Ryder Cup points and plenty of other good things.
But when it comes to Tiger Woods it’s different, everything is different. Tiger’s 73 in the final round of The Open Championship left him in a tie for third place with Brandt Snedeker. In Tiger’s world that’s unacceptable. In Tiger’s world anything but a win is unacceptable, especially at a major.
We all know that Tiger has been making swing changes and working through his “process” and this season he has certainly made much progress. He has already won three PGA Tour tournaments and not just any three, but Arnie’s, Jack’s and his own AT&T. He has five top tens finishes, leads the tour in FedEx Cup points and this week moved to number two in the world. With the way he’s playing it’s just a matter of time before he reclaims his old spot as world number one. But to him and his millions of supporters it won’t mean anything until he claims another major.
If anyone thinks Tiger isn’t playing well they’re wrong. Right now he is probably playing the best golf of just about anyone in the world. So he bungled a bunker shot on the sixth at The Open and he had a bad weekend at The U.S. Open, big deal. He his hitting the ball better than he has in two years and his putter has returned. He says he is still hitting his irons a bit longer than he is used to but he’ll straighten out his short game soon enough.
The problem here is that Tiger is a victim of his own superhuman success. He is held to a standard that is no longer applicable. Woods won fourteen majors in eleven years, a pace that made Jack Nicklaus’s eighteen majors look like Tiger’s halfway point. A number of factors have contributed to Tiger’s slowdown but that shouldn’t detract from where he is right now.
Tiger is playing golf at the very highest level of anyone in the world. There are about a dozen golfers that fall into this level and where Woods was once head and shoulders above them now he faces them eye to eye. Will we ever see the 2000 Tiger again? I doubt it…that spell doesn’t happen once in a lifetime that spell happens once in a forever.
The Tiger we are watching now is very capable of winning majors. But so are plenty of his fellow players. Woods isn’t superhuman any longer and that isn’t horrible. He’s a great golfer with a passionate following. Maybe he’ll start winning major after major again but until he does we should just accept him as a regular, card carrying member of the PGA Tour, an elite member but still just one of many great players out there.
Forget the old Tiger, this is the new Tiger and he’s still a damn good golfer. He’s just not superhuman any longer.