Tiger Woods is 3-over at the Masters because he can’t control his swing or his temper
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Tiger Woods offered perhaps the best evidence yet Friday at Augusta National that he will never break Jack Nicklaus’ record of winning 18 major championships.
He delivered it one sailor-cursing, club-throwing, iron-booting shot at a time. Tiger was a disaster at the Masters, not so much because of his round of 75 that left him tied for 40th at 3-over par for the tournament.
[ Photos: See how Tiger’s tantrum played out ]
Despite a miserable day, Woods is eight shots behind co-leaders Jason Dufner and Fred Couples, which leaves him with some ground to make up with 36 holes left to play, but it’s doable. He made up seven shots on Sunday alone a year ago.
It’s still at least possible he slips on a green jacket this year.
Tiger was mentally weak Friday, though. He was too focused on reacting to his poor shots, delivering over-the-top scenes of anger and moping around the back nine like he was being persecuted.
“I get into streaks where [my swing is] really good and then I lose it for a little bit,” he said. “That’s obviously very frustrating.”
Allowing it to boil over wasn’t a good look. More importantly, it speaks to the kind of continued inconsistency in both play and demeanor that generally comes back to haunt a golfer in major championships, where there is so much talent to compete against.
Woods has 14 major championships, although none since the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in June of 2008. His stated goal is to break Jack Nicklaus’ mark of 18 majors. He isn’t going to do it this way.
Tiger isn’t the physically dominant player he once was. He’s 36. He can’t drive it like the younger guys. He isn’t as steady with a putter as he used to be. His rebuilt swing fails him regularly. He doesn’t intimidate like he once did. And the competition, especially a wave of tough young players that he inspired, is better than at any time in his career.
He’s acknowledged all of these things.
He must rely on guile, experience and wisdom. He has to maximize every opportunity, and that doesn’t mean just playing from the lead but also surviving stretches of poor play. And he knows it.
What’s his advantage at Augusta?
“I think it’s understanding how to play this golf course,” he said earlier this week.
Tiger has always had a temper. He’s always been somewhat of a drama queen on the course. It makes for great theater, whether he is smashing clubs or pumping fists.
He also used to possess the kind of focus and will that put him always in contention. He was able to find balance. That wasn’t the case Friday. This was sloppy. This was unnecessary. This was allowing anger to compound one mistake with another.
Consider the par-3 16th, where he hit a tee shot in the bunker on the right side of the green. It was not his chosen location. It also wasn’t a complete disaster. Tiger had saved pars like this hundreds of times.
This time he tossed his club into the air before the ball even landed. After it landed, he turned and booted it toward the back of the tee box.
“Well, it’s a simple 9-iron, it’s not that hard,” he said after by way of explanation. “It’s a very easy golf shot.”
He hacked his second shot away from the bunker, hitting it too hard and too far. It rolled briskly all the way across the green, never threatening the pin, and nearly wound up in the pond for what would’ve meant a crushing penalty.
This isn’t about his score. This isn’t about his position on the leaderboard. This isn’t about what he can possibly do this weekend.
It’s about a veteran player who allowed his temperament to cost him strokes in a tournament where every single one counts. It was entertaining to watch, foolish to do.
He still has five to go to break Nicklaus’ record, and the preschooler routine isn’t going to get him there.
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