On Sunday at Muirfield, Tiger Woods was once again in the hunt of a major championship. A three-putt on his first hole followed by another on the sixth put him a tough spot, and despite some birdies on the back nine it was another come from behind effort that came up short. It's now been 17 majors that Tiger has played without a win, the longest stretch of his career, and the questions continue to come about what exactly is wrong with Tiger Woods?
Here is a spoiler for you all; nothing is wrong. This is golf, a game that embarrassed the best in the world at times, and given us plenty of head-scratching moments. It's a game that doomed the Shark on a Sunday at Augusta, seen Phil Mickelson blow a drive 40 yards left on the last hole to lose the U.S. Open, and big name after big name come up just short when they had one hand on the trophy. For Tiger, it's been five years of bad weeks or tough breaks (remember the flagstick at the Masters?!) or running into a player that is simply golfing his ball better than Tiger, and while it seems strange that Tiger is majorless since '08, it isn't fair to bash him for it.
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Fred Couples has one major win. So does Tom Kite, Adam Scott, David Duval and Mark Calcavecchia. Tiger has 14, second only to one man, and despite his continued pursuit of a record most thought was unattainable, we scratch our heads and blow Woods off because he finished sixth and not first.
There is a misnomer around these parts that I'm a huge Tiger fan, that I love the guy and gush about his play and want him to win every golf tournament. That is simply not true. I like Tiger the same way I like any athlete that continues to make the sport I love look easy. It isn't a love for the man, it's a love for his talent. His run between 2000-'02 was one of the most fun things I've ever watched simply because I love golf and I want to be perfect at the sport and for two years a man was doing exactly that. It wasn't golf, it was art.
Now we sit around and bash the guy when he doesn't win a major. I've heard people say he choked on Sunday at Muirfield, which is ridiculous. Tiger didn't choke, he just didn't play well. He didn't have a lead with two holes to go and finish bogey-bogey, or miss a two-footer on the final hole for the win, he just couldn't get anything going all weekend just like nearly the entire rest of the field. For Tiger, the problem is more ours than it is his. We look at a man and see a kid, a youngster that ripped major win after major win like he was playing for the Dobson Ranch club championship. Tiger is now 37, with multiple injuries and a lot of scar tissue from life, some deserving and some not. He is the most famous athlete in the world and the one golfer that can move the needle. When he plays bad most of us turn off our television, rolling our eyes at names like Justin Rose and Charl Schwartzel because "they aren't Tiger Woods."
This year alone Tiger has finished T-4 at the Masters and T-6 at the British Open. Only Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day have finished in the top-six at two majors in 2013, but that doesn't satisfy us with Tiger, it frustrates us. We get mad at the guy for not being better, despite his ability to almost always be in the hunt at a major championship.
Tiger Woods has one goal in mind, and that is winning major championships and getting to 19 and passing a number we never thought was possible until he came on the scene in 1997 and blew away the field at Augusta National. That is the one and only motivation for Tiger right now. But he still tees it up at regular PGA Tour events and wins a lot of them, even if nobody notices. This season alone Tiger has four PGA Tour wins, twice as many as anybody else on the planet, but that only holds us over for that Monday after he wins. The talk always circles back to if Tiger is "back" or if he can win the Masters or at Merion or at Muirfield and now the PGA.
We should be impressed by what Tiger keeps doing to the game, even if that means he goes another year without a major win. He will eventually get one, and when he does, the floodgates might open just like they did when he broke his PGA Tour winless streak last year at Bay Hill.
Tiger made himself a legend. Now we sit and wait for him to return to his rightful spot. Eventually his game will click on one of the four weeks it matters to us all and the trophy will be his and everything will be back to normal. For now, why don't we just enjoy the fight he's putting up and stop bashing the guy for continuing to put himself in a spot to win?
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