It’s official now.
Sports, golf, the PGA Tour…those three no longer need Tiger Woods.
In fact, for the first time in, well, maybe forever , Woods actually needs the game of golf far more than it needs him. Without golf in his life, Woods has nothing at all to hang his hat on. And if that golf doesn’t include winning and holding up big trophies and cashing large checks, Tiger becomes just another player chasing the dream.
One thing for sure. He’s no longer the game’s best player. Sure, that could change sometime in the near future. Remember, he’s not quite three weeks removed from a victory at Bay Hill in Arnold Palmer’s tournament. Everyone is entitled to a bad outing here and there. Woods, however, isn’t the best player alive, as he was from 1997 through 2009. He’s clearly the player with the best career currently active on the Tour, but others are better than him now.
To me, the most important part of the Woods collapse in this year’s Masters is that a handful of highly capable players were there to pick up where he left off.
As Sunday’s final round at Augusta showed, lots of other players can hit shots under the gun and make putts when it matters and shoot 33 on the back nine “coming home” to win a green jacket.
Woods is no longer a necessity.
If he somehow comes back from this latest fall-from-grace at Augusta and works his way into contention at one of this season’s three remaining major championships, it will surely be fun to watch.
But don’t count on it.
And if Tiger isn’t a factor at Olympic or Royal Lytham or Kiawah, it won’t matter much, because someone like Bubba Watson will come along at the U.S. Open in June and make the four days well worth following. Just like we saw at Augusta when no fewer than six players could have wound up winning at some point over the last 90 minutes of Sunday’s 4th round, someone’s story will be told at the U.S. Open.
There’s still a part of me that wants to see Woods return to glory and challenge the elusive 18 major championship record held by Jack Nicklaus. I know lots of people who are Tiger “haters”. One of the things I’ve learned from nearly 20 years of playing “tournament golf” at the amateur level is that wishing ill will on a fellow competitor never works, for starters, and takes your mind off the task at hand, more importantly. With that ingrained in my golfing brain, I’ve never been one to root against anyone, even when it’s Tiger Woods and he’s playing in the U.S. Open or the PGA Championship and I’m not. I don’t openly root against any player. Not Woods. Not Mickelson. Not Garcia. None of them. They’ll do what they do on the course and I can either appreciate it or not, but it’s never been a habit of mine to cheer a bad shot or a missed putt or a bad round.
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