Monday, August 9, 2010

Free fallin'

A little tribute to Tiger’s Woods’ game of late…

Anyway, the bottom line is that the man cannot make a 4 foot putt anymore. I noticed this at the Masters, and by the time the USOpen concluded I knew that his major problem was putting. All the other golf stuff will fall in line if he can make putts at will again. If you can make key putts, you never mentally check out or exhaust yourself; on the other hand, if you cannot make putts to save a hole from bad shots or to capitalize on good ones, you don’t much see the point in playing golf….or in keeping score, at any rate That’s where Tiger is right now. It is really as simple as that, and it always has been.

BTW, for those who constantly bitch and whine about the amount of coverage Tiger always gets on TV, this year should be proof of why. Let me add that I am frequently frustrated by the telecasts---I would like to see much of the rounds of at least the last 6 groups, instead of a few shots from one group followed by fluff pieces and commercials --- but it is fashionable for (prejudiced) people to whine about TV showing every Tiger shot all the time and this is what I’d like to address. This Tiger-centricity came about for 2 main reasons: (1) It’s what delivers viewers and so networks will stick with it. Viewership (and ultimately the mighty advertizing dollar) justifies all kinds of popular garbage on TV so why should it not justify attention on the most compelling player in golf? (2) Nobody delivered like Tiger. Nobody. And now that Tiger can’t break 70 if his life depended on it, nobody has stepped up to deliver. For the past 6 months, Tiger has basically offered up the World #1 ranking to anyone who may want to take it. There have been multiple instances where Mickelson could have won or finished really high and taken the mantle. This past weekend Westwood or Mickelson could have wrested the #1 ranking from Tiger just by finishing decently---combined with the fact that Tiger almost finished DFL (dead effing last). But they even screwed that up. Westwood had two bad rounds and then withdrew due to injury—the official news is that it was his calf but I’m guessing there was a bit of injury to the confidence there too. And Phil --- the man Tiger haters love to love --- the Great White Hope in the Tiger era --- the man who has all the tools to make a sustained run at the #1 spot --- Phil the thrill --- folded like a lawn chair yet again. Coming into Sunday, he was placed well at 10th place or so, four shots behind the leaders, needing to climb up only to fourth place to finally get the #1 ranking in the sport. Tiger, having a disastrous week, had already finished his round with an abysmal 7-over par 77 well before Phil teed off. And Phil, with everything to gain --- the tournament itself, the #1 ranking, some great momentum going into next week’s PGA Championship --- lit up Sunday with a sterling 8-over par 78. Mind you, this was a day when the final leaderboard showed 11 of the top 14 finishers shooting rounds under 70, including two 64s, two 65s, a 66, and three 67s.

Sooooo, yeah. All the Tiger haters need to see, understand and accept what Tiger’s collapse has revealed. There is currently no #1 player in golf. Indeed, there hadn’t been for a while before Tiger showed up. And now that he is in stunning and incredible free fall, there is again no #1 player. There is no one who, with his skill and will on the course, can make this sport quite as watchable as Tiger did.

Sure, as Tiger continues to spiral down and as others continue in their spotty mediocrity there will soon be someone other than Tiger who is ranked #1. But undertand this: golf will, as it does now, have a #1 ranked player, but it will still be without a #1 player. Until Tiger returns…if he ever does. Or until some kid like McIlroy steps up and takes charge.