Welcome to Teeing Off, where Devil Ball editor Jay Busbee and head writer Shane Bacon take a day's topic and smack it all over the course. Suggest a future topic by writing firstname.lastname@example.org, or hit us on Twitter at @jaybusbee and @shanebacon. Today, we bring you a special edition of Teeing Off, focusing on Tiger Woods and his recent withdrawal at The Players Championship. Here we go ...
Bacon: Tiger Woods withdrew from The Players Championship for the second consecutive year. He now has as many WD's in 2011 as he does top 5s. The guy looks so far from his past self that it brings up the question, can Tiger even win anymore? I know we all expect him to, because he piled up the trophies by the dozen in the past, but like we saw with the Lakers this year, sometime expectations are just that, conclusions predicted by past experiences. I don't think Tiger is going to win this year, and I'm starting to think it may be years before he does. It's crazy, but why isn't it true?
Busbee: You're right, we're looking at Tiger and we're not seeing what's right in front of us. This is a guy who, right now, is middle-of-the-pack at best. Were he named, say, Tom Woods, he'd be utterly unmemorable. His story is what's so fascinating right now, not his game. I still think he's got wins in him, but it's looking like they'll be hang-around-and-take-advantage-late, not throttle-the-field-from-Thursday types. This isn't even about the relative strength of the rest of the field, it's just that Woods himself hasn't been anywhere close to 100 percent in years.
Bacon: Exactly. The proof is, dare I say, in the pudding, and everyone is looking back at what they ate four years ago. Names like Keegan Bradley and Kevin Chappell are ahead of him in the FedEx Cup rankings. Mark Wilson has more wins than Tiger does over his last two seasons. Matt Kuchar has become the consistent golfer that Tiger used to be. It's right there, but we continue to avoid the truth.
I can't argue with your thoughts that he'll win again, but I also don't see when, or where. At this point, he has just as many negative memories from golf courses and events as he does the positives ones, and the bad ones are fresher in his mind. He now has tanked when leading in majors, and failed to complete a comeback. He just isn't the same guy, and it seems the golf world is scared to totally grasp that. Is it Tiger's fault? No, not really, he's just a very, very old 35-years-old at this point.
Busbee: Let's take a moment to speculate on, really, just what the hell happened here. Is this a case where the mental and the physical are so completely intertwined that the decimation of one means the inevitable decline of the other? Perhaps Woods' strongest asset all along was his mind, his will, his self-assurance and self-confidence, and once that got shattered, everything that supported fell apart. He's had major injuries before, but he's never, ever looked as bad on the course as he has Post-Hydrant. It'd be a shame if Tiger 2.0 never even got off the ground, but everyone not blind with loyalty to Woods has to recognize that as a realistic possibility.
Bacon: Bravo, sir, I couldn't have said that better myself. I think back to the putt on the 72nd hole that Tiger made at Torrey Pines in 2008 to get into a playoff with Rocco Mediate; the putt was bouncing all the way to the hole, but it almost seemed like fate, and will, let it stay it's line just enough to go in. I was always amazed by that putt more than any other in his career, because it looked like while the green wasn't going to let it in, the gods, or the luck, or the fate of this game, opened the door.
Maybe that'll be his lasting image. Wincing his way to a win while injured, back when life was perfect, and now he's wincing his way to a WD when his life is, far as we can see, in shambles. The mind is a really, really delicate flower to golfers, and the moment negativity creeps in, you're done. I hate to think Tiger is "done," but I sure can't find any evidence to the contrary.
And now your turn ... what exactly can you make of Tiger right now?