Only a Matter of Time for Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods fell short yet again.

Another rather atrocious Sunday at a major championship leaves Tiger stuck on 14 majors. He’s still 4 away from Jack but one has to wonder if he will ever win another major. He hasn’t been able to put together 4 solid, consecutive rounds in a major since his return from rock bottom. At this point, Tiger is about as dominant as Adam Scott is. In other words, that’s not very good.

However, the golfer formerly known as Eldrick is far from done.

It’s no secret that Woods is putting his game back together. Aside from his missed cut at the Greenbrier, Tiger has been in contention in most every tournament he has played in recently. He has won 3 tournaments this year. He came back from his disappointing Masters in April with strong major performances at the U.S. and British Open.

More importantly though, he seems to have accepted the fact that he isn’t the Tiger Woods of old. In stark contrast to his noticeable anger following the 2010 Masters, Woods could be seen smiling after his disappointing final round yesterday. He undoubtedly wasn’t content with his play on the course Sunday but Tiger gave the impression that he could take solace in a relatively good overall performance.

Despite being behind numerous strokes on Sunday, Tiger stubbornly and illogically refused to pull the driver out of his bag, only to use it when it was too late. Call it a lack of confidence, call it a refusal to stray from his game plan, call it whatever you want. The way I see it, the new, older, Tiger Woods understands that he can’t simply go out and play so freely the way he used to.

The Tiger Woods of 2 years ago wouldn’t have been able to comprehend that.

Like everyone else, he realizes that at age 36 he can’t dominate the field in the manner that he used to. His ego has been healed enough to the point where he can finally come to terms with his inability to be prime time Tiger. Other than his Spock evil twin-like goatee, Tiger Woods once again looks to be happier. He is enjoying the game of golf.

It won’t be too long before Tiger Woods wins his 15th major. This Tiger’s head is finally getting screwed on straight. He is contending at Majors. The pieces of his shattered ego are slowly being put back together, each and every week. It’s all steps in the right direction.

Forget the Tiger Woods of yesteryear. He is long gone and isn’t coming back.

Expectations of Tiger have to be lowered. Immediate gratification be damned. The major will come. He is getting closer.

18 total majors. Well, that’s another story. It is ridiculous to guarantee Tiger Woods 18 majors as of this moment but it would be just as ridiculous to write him off completely. He hasn’t won a major in 2012 but it has been a solid comeback season.

The magnitude of his epic collapse was a 9.0 on the Richter scale. As we have seen, that isn’t something that gets fixed overnight. It’s a process. Tiger Woods is still in the middle of that process. He is no longer clearing the rubble of his damaged self but is on to building the foundation to a new person, a new Tiger.

A 73 to put him out of contention on Sunday at the British Open shouldn’t tell you that Tiger doesn’t have it in him anymore to win major championships. It should tell you that he played 3 more good rounds at a big tournament. It should tell you that the consistency is coming back. It should tell you that he’s close to regaining the title of major champion. A title that he so desperately covets.

At 42 years old, Ernie Els won his 4th major. There is no rush for Tiger. He has plenty of time left to win a few more majors, let alone 1. He is too good. He is due.

If Tiger doesn’t win at the PGA Championship in August then he will be closing in on 5 years since winning his last major by the time the Masters rolls around next year.

Don’t fret though, because it’s only a matter of time.

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Tiger and Golf Are One

Golf is nothing without Tiger Woods and Tiger Woods is nothing without golf.

To fill the void that was left by Tiger Woods during his hiatus from relevancy on the PGA tour was impossible. When you know that something better is out there, complete satisfaction is out of the question. There was always the possibility that Tiger could return to a form close to his former self.

Rory McIlroy tried his best to put golf on the map without Tiger. He won the U.S. Open in a Tiger dominating fashion last year but has been crashing and burning lately. However, it probably doesn’t matter all that much for golf that McIlroy has been experiencing these bumps in the road on his way to superstardom.

Tiger is where it’s at.

As long as Tiger is able to show flashes of competing at a high level on the PGA tour, no one else will truly be relevant in golf. Rory McIlroy can win majors. The Duff Man, Jason Dufner, can use his namesake to win over crowds. Rickie Fowler can make fashion statements. Kevin Na can drive fans crazy. It won’t make any difference though.

To call Tiger’s chip on 16 magical would be an understatement. This kind of thing could only come off the blade of Tiger’s wedge. Magic is something that has come to be expected from Tiger Woods. It’s almost as if a shot of that magnitude was inevitable at some point.

Tiger Woods will never be the same dominating force that he was on the golfing scene but that doesn’t matter either. When Tiger is in the mix, there is always the anticipation of amazing. You never know when amazing is going to come but when it does, it is incredibly special. Not one person can complete a narrative the way Tiger Woods can.

Golf is not the same without Tiger because we know what we are missing when he is gone. Having something in your sights but just out of your reach is the worst feeling. That’s what it has been like with Tiger Woods flirting with relevancy. For the golf world to try to focus its attention elsewhere for the past 2 years was wasted effort.

Seeing that Tiger was physically but not mentally capable of putting his game together made things even harder for fans. Whether or not Tiger would be able to return to greatness was, and still is, up in the air but the hope that he will one day do so will not waver.

Tiger has ruined the game of golf for the time being. He isn’t only the face of golf. He is golf. If Tiger is physically capable of swinging a golf club in a PGA tournament, then the rest of golf doesn’t stand a chance of surviving without Tiger. Tiger and golf cannot be separate entities, at least not for now.

However, Tiger’s immense celebrity hasn’t ruined the game forever. There will be a grieving period when Tiger retires from golf. But once it soaks in for fans that Tiger Woods is not coming back, then golf can start fresh. The thing is, it might be a little while before golf can get its fresh start.

Nevertheless, one day, someone will come along and take the golf world by storm. However, until Tiger leaves the game for good, that someone is just going to have to wait.

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Adam Scott Deserves More Credit

Adam Scott has shown resilience that some of the best athletes in the world could be learning from. Lebron James, here’s looking at you.

He isn’t getting enough credit for it.

Caught in a teenage love triangle straight out of Dawson’s Creek, Adam Scott blew the field away last weekend as he won the Bridgestone Invitational by 4 strokes.

Adam Scott has found himself in the middle of a messy break up. Tiger Woods thought his caddy cheated on him but Steve Williams doesn’t understand. He thought they were on a break. In a previous relationship where it is now obvious that neither partner is emotionally stable, Scott has remained even keel. It’s not often that a player, who is performing at such a high level, is overshadowed by a relationship between a caddy and his ex.

If TV dramas have taught us anything, it’s hard enough keeping your cool in the midst of a complicated love triangle. Imagine trying to professional golf on top of that.

Adam Scott, a career underachiever, has had enough trouble throughout his time on the tour dealing with the expectations placed on him. Typically, another Tiger Woods era “next one” has not lived up to the hype. You would have never guessed that from the way he has played his last 6 rounds.

Playing with the burden of a big-headed caddy, whose dreams of revenge on his ex-partner were placed squarely on his shoulders, Adam Scott has stepped up his game in a manner expected from only the greatest athletes in the world.

For a player who had only had 7 career PGA tour wins prior to last week’s victory at Bridgestone, it was unbelievable to see him come up with a win at a tournament where his caddy must have brought some lofty expectations along with him.

Scott was and is still playing for two people. That can’t be easy.

In a sport where choking is as common as the cold, Adam Scott has handled the intense pressure and media scrutiny like a young Tiger Woods.

As I sit here and write this, Adam Scott is tied for 3rd place at the 2011 PGA championship. He sits at 4 under par through 11 holes, only 2 shots behind Steve Stricker. To compete and win his caddy’s tournament of redemption is one thing but to continue to compete and stay in contention the following week at a major championship is something else.

Clearly, Adam Scott hasn’t had enough pressure placed on him during his career because as of this moment he is thriving with all the added weight on his shoulders. For most players, the benefit of the world’s most famous caddy by his side would have no doubt been outweighed by the stress brought on by all the extra pieces of luggage Steve Williams brought to the relationship.

Obviously, that has not been the case for Adam Scott.

Adam Scott’s play should have been the headline story last week but the fact that he has been able to handle the oddity of his situation throughout the week with the ease that he has is just making his play at the PGA Championship all the more impressive.

A lesser man would have collapsed.

The public should have a new found respect for Adam Scott after this whole ordeal. You may not like what his caddy has done but it is going to be hard not to cheer for him this weekend. It doesn’t matter if you think that Steve Williams doesn’t have the right to rub it into Tiger’s face because golf should never be about the caddies.

Adam Scott took the high road when he asked about his caddies comments. He might as well be on cloud nine right about now.

He may not win the PGA Championship but make no mistake, barring a meltdown of epic proportions, these last two weeks will go down as the most impressive stretch in the disappointing career of Adam Scott.

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Just What the Doctor Ordered

No chance of choking. Rory McIlroy is on the path to putting the dark days behind and beginning his new era of being golf’s next superstar. Quite fitting that he did it in Tiger Woods fashion.

The PGA needed a star to break out sooner rather than later. They were due. The ratings probably weren’t all that great for a Sunday afternoon at the US Open but over these 4 days Rory McIlroy has made sure that people will be glued to their television sets for the next major.

It’s no secret that golf has been faltering with the absence of Tiger Woods. With 11 different winners in the last 11 majors there is very little reason for the casual fan to tune in. Nobodies winning isn’t very much fun. This 11th different champion changes the whole landscape of golf though.

Rory McIlroy can single handily launch golf back into relevance. He may not be American or have the flare of Tiger Wood but let’s face it, he is a golfer. You can’t expect Tiger Woods charisma out of every PGA star. McIlroy is likeable and isn’t boring. He’s a nice kid.

What more can you ask for?

Dominance can be boring but not when you haven’t seen it for a while. The rarer the flower, the sweeter it is. Dominance is exactly what the sport is begging for right now.

Boring is waiting for the next superstar to arrive but finally realizing that you are only setting yourself up for disappointment. Can you really blame me for being so skeptical towards McIlroy’s mental make-up?

The commentators were drooling over McIlroy and his “Adonis” looking follow through. The crowd was digging every shot and already chanting “Rory!” after he almost holed his tee shot on the 10th hole. Even his colleagues are in awe of his astonishing talent.

If Tiger Woods can come back healthy, which at this point looks unlikely, it would be wonderful to see the Irishman and the American go head-to-head against each other. That’s something that Tiger has lacked his whole career. He has lacked a true competitor that could go shot for shot with him. All the great one’s had it and Tiger never did. It takes away from his greatness.

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Rory McIlroy is in a similar place to Tiger. He has the opportunity and talent to take the PGA tour by the throat. Guys like Ryo Ishikawa and Rickie Fowler are still young but haven’t shown the signs the McIlroy is giving us.

McIlroy could be alone at the top like Tiger Woods. Golf would be fun again. You need someone to root for or, at least, root against each weekend to make it interesting. Someone who is a real threat to contend each and every week. Love it or hate it, a dominant superstar is undeniably intriguing.

Rory McIlroy is doing for golf what Lindsay Lohan does for late night talk shows. With the annual summer sports lull, this couldn’t have come at a better time. He is the ultimate water cooler material right now.

Everyone at the PGA head office is breathing a little bit easier.

Even though Congressional played easier due to the heavy rain, Rory McIlroy made golfing a US Open course look like child’s play. He made the weekend an absolute laugher in a manner that could only be accomplished by a superstar. You don’t see Luke Donald or Lee Westwood doing much of that.

The past 4 days should have convinced the world that there is a reason to watch golf and his name is Rory McIlroy.

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Rory McIlroy, Another Wasted Talent?

Is Rory McIlroy the next great choke artist in golf?

Rory McIlroy cemented his place in Masters history but not in the way that he would have liked. McIlroy did his best magic act as he disappeared off of the leaderboard faster than you could say Augusta. The young Irish “phenom” was the first player in a major to blow a four shot lead after three rounds in a major since the infamous Jean Van De Velde meltdown.

The excuses will be endless for Rory McIlroy especially considering his seemingly great rapport with the media. He’s too young, inexperienced, everyone has a bad day, Tiger was prowling, or maybe even it was too hot outside for the Irishman. The list is endless. Either way, those excuses may hold water for the time being but the big question that should be on everyone’s mind is whether McIlroy is another great golf talent cursed with the spell of the choke?

One bad round in an otherwise steady Masters tournament generally wouldn’t signal as much cause for concern, however this isn’t the first time that McIlroy has faltered under the pressure of a major. McIlroy shot a 9 under par 63 at St. Andrews in the 2010 first round of the British Open only to follow that up with an 80 in round two. He shot a 68 and 69 respectively over next two days, which left him in a tie for 3rd place.

It’s a scary thought to see the supposed next star in golf already having major issues with his nerves. After a couple of poor shots today McIlroy’s psyche was snapped like a fragile twig. That doesn’t happen to the great ones.

Nicklaus or Tiger aren’t collapsing the way McIlroy did yesterday afternoon. Even at 21.

It isn’t just the complete, utter breakdown that McIlroy went through. Of the golfers who sat above 4 under par to finish the tournament, there were only two other players on Sunday who shot over par. Those players were Fred Couples and Ross Fisher who ended up tied for 15th with McIlroy at 4 under.

What does it say about a player who shot an 80 while no one above 2 under par shot worse than a 73?

Moreover, aside from a very good final few holes in round 3, McIlroy was at best steady after his remarkable first round. He had ample opportunity to grab the tournament by the neck but time after time was unable to take advantage. Don’t the great ones run away from the field?

It would be sad for golf if Rory McIlroy soon became equated with such names as Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott and Anthony Kim. As I wrote in January, the PGA desperately needs another player to add to the Tiger-Mickelson couple but once again a challenger has yet to emerge.

As a fan it is frustrating to see guys constantly falter on Sunday. The days of excusing players based on the Tiger factor are over. It’s about time people start getting in through their thick heads that Tiger’s supposed God-like aura was not the reason golfers choke. The onus is all on the players themselves.

Tiger’s inability to step up in the manner that he has in the past has allowed more guys like Charl Schwartzel to “prove” that they have the chops, but what are the chances we see Schwartzel falling into the category of the Ben Curtis’ and Rich Beem’s of the world?

Rory McElroy needed nothing more than a half-decent round on Sunday to truly solidify his status as one of the PGA’s elite. The career defining win that has eluded the likes of Lee Westwood would have been a huge confidence booster for the 21-year-old McIlroy.

Maybe he just doesn’t have it in him. That’s not to say that he won’t ever win a major but with Gary Busey on the Celebrity Apprentice showing more mental stability than McIlroy it seems unlikely that this young talent will be anything more than a perennial underachiever.

With the amount of talent that this young man possesses it would be a shame to see it go to waste. In his short career Rory McElroy has shown nothing that should lead us to believe that he will be the next great thing in golf and it would appear as though he is going to have to pull a rabbit out of his hat if he wants to win a major anytime soon.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. You can also follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favor.

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