The Wheels Are Officially Off


Well, that escalated quickly. Tiger Woods—you remember him, he used to be the best golfer in the universe—shot a combined sixteen-over par in the first two rounds of the U.S. Open on Thursday and Friday. It was his worst 36-hole score in his professional career. He missed the cut by roughly…a billion shots. And do you know what the curious thing about it was?

Nobody was particularly surprised.

Tiger used to be a favorite to win every tournament he entered. In fact, it used to be that Las Vegas sportsbooks would post “Tiger versus the field” odds. Just take a moment to appreciate the absurdity of that. The PGA Tour, home of the best golfers in the world, and you used to be able to get odds that Woods would beat ALL OF THEM. The funny thing was, betting on the field was typically a sucker’s bet.

And this weekend, those same Vegas oddsmakers had Tiger as an underdog to even make the cut. It’s straight up mindboggling how far and how fast Tiger Woods has fallen.

I know that everybody wants to blame his extramarital affairs and whatnot for his downfall, but, come on. Let’s be serious. The PGA Tour is full of multi-millionaires who travel within the highest levels of society. You think Tiger was the only one acting that way? Please. The other members should be very, very glad that Tiger didn’t go Kobe on them when his indiscretions were revealed and start naming names. I guarantee that there were at least twenty other guys sweating profusely every night for about a month after Elin “acted courageously” by swinging a golf club in anger at his ‘Slade.

Personally, I think Tiger was juicing. And I think he knew that if he had another scandal, he was done for in the eyes of the general public (it’s amazing, isn’t it? We’ll totally forgive a guy for treating the entire world like a sexual candy store, but steroids? BAN HIM FOREVER). So he stopped juicing. He got old, and he got old quickly. His body started breaking down. He lost confidence. And now? It’s hard to imagine him ever being competitive again at the highest levels of the sport.

I remember Jack Nicklaus saying once, when asked about Tiger breaking his all-time record of eighteen majors something along the lines of, “I believe Tiger will break my record—but he’s actually got to go out and do it.” Meaning, Tiger isn’t the greatest yet. Maybe someday he will be, but Jack was still King.

Well, maybe I’m biased, considering I spent a great deal of time at my dad’s house in Muirfield Village growing up, but I don’t think Tiger has a chance of winning an orange ball at his local Putt-Putt, much less claiming Jack’s title as the best ever. Dude is done.


13 Replies to “The Wheels Are Officially Off”

  1. Dave L

    I don’t believe it’s a physical issue. At this level, what’s going on upstairs separates the good from the great. Don’t forget he won with a busted knee.

  2. Felis Concolor

    At least he had a good run; imagine what it was like for Stephen Roche when everybody toasted him with “congratulations on your historic victory: you’ll never wear the yellow jersey again” – when he was all of 27 years old.

  3. Tyler

    Dave, winning once with a busted knee while on anabolics is a very different proposition from winning on a busted everything without them.

  4. Ronnie Schreiber

    Excuse me but as someone who still has some metal in my leg from a genuinely broken knee (tibial plateau fracture with bone graft needed to fill in where the bone was crushed), I’d say that Eldrick’s stress fracture of his tibia hardly counts as a busted knee. Also, Steve Yzerman played for years in the NHL without an ACL in one knee (he had it eventually fixed when another procedure was done).

    I think Woods’ real problem is that he’s never played a lot of competitive golf. He’s never played the full tour, just cherry picking tournaments for the purses and as tune ups for the majors. While there are lots of millionaires on the PGA tour, the economic reality for most golf pros is that if you don’t make the cut, you don’t bring home a paycheck and baby needs a new pair of shoes. Woods never had that hunger. Most people could retire on his first endorsement deal with Nike. Sure, he had a competitive drive when he was the best in the world with little competition other than Lefty on a good day, but does he have the drive to slog it out week after week, trying to make the cut?

  5. MrFixit1599

    I happened to be home this week taking care of my wife, and spent a large part of my down time watching the U. S. Open. I haven’t played a round of golf since I was in my teens, but I still go to the driving range a couple times a year just for stress relief. Some of the shots I saw Tiger make were just awful. Shank after shank. Top it. Off the heel, off the toe, you name it. It made me quite sad to see someone that used to be must see TV, turn into just another guy out on the golf course. I hope he either walks away, and retires until he can join the Sr. tour, or at least walks away for a while to get his head straight.

    The worst was the crowd actually laughing at him while he descended into one of the deep deep bunkers in the middle of the fairway. You could HEAR the crowd laughing at him. Talk about humiliation. Maybe a wake up call?

  6. Dirty Dingus McGee

    Golf is a pleasant walk in the woods, spoiled by a little white ball.

    I gave the game a try at one point in my life, due to it seemed that was a “requirement” in my line of employment at the time. I never really enjoyed it, was never good at it, and was amazed at the shots that pro’s could make. I guess it’s been 25 years since I swung a club, and doubt I would be much worse today than I was then.

  7. kvndoom

    He’s got enough money that he doesn’t need to swing a club ever again in his life. Why even bother and keep embarrassing himself? Athletes past their prime (physically or mentally) who are worth 8 or 9 figures but still keep playing really do puzzle me.

  8. James2

    A few years ago a sportswriter by the name of Joe Posnanski wrote a brilliant essay explaining why Tiger will never win again. It was completely analytical. Injuries and the fact that other great golfers also never won again (at least frequently) after turning a certain age were Joe’s many reasons why. Alas, I think Nike forced to pull the essay.

      • Domestic Hearse

        Earl Woods was Tiger’s father. Earl was an Army officer, a Green Beret (now we just refer to them as Special Forces) in Viet Nam, and he worked mainly in Psy Ops closely with the CIA. There’s a lot of interesting books about this special branch of services and the psychological work being done by the CIA during this era, so I won’t get into the whole story here, just know it was experimental, groundbreaking, and in some ways, given the perspective of history, sometimes highly unethical.

        So Earl decided when Tiger was very, very young, this child would become a pro golfer. Not just any pro golfer, the world’s best pro golfer. Earl became Tiger’s mentor, manager, coach, and pretty much scripted every chapter of Tiger’s life.

        You may remember scenes of a 2-year old Tiger appearing with Bob Hope on TV:

        Yeah, that’s Earl, with his son, and Tiger can already hit the driver off the tee.

        Earl didn’t stop there. He continued to be the controlling force in Tiger’s life, as Tiger exploded as a young amateur, then played for Stanford (Tiger during an interview about his Stanford years: I was so shy, I couldn’t even talk to girls, didn’t date. I just played golf.)

        Earl wasn’t shy about taking the credit for Tiger’s success. In fact, he wrote two books about how we mere mortals should bring up our kids (repressed, militaristic, disciplined): Training a Tiger: A Father’s Guide to Raising a Winner in Both Golf and Life, and Playing Through: Straight Talk on Hard Work, Big Dreams and Adventures with Tiger.

        When Tiger turned pro, Earl was there guiding his every move. Which swing coach, which caddie, which tournaments. Even helped put together all of Tiger’s very lucrative sponsorship packages, making Tiger one of the wealthiest athletes in the world, in any sport.

        Earl died in 2006. Tiger continued to play well that year, the next, and after a few months off to rehab a knee, was starting out well in 2009. But behind the scenes, his life was unraveling.

        The kid who didn’t date in college, who couldn’t even bring himself to ask a girl on a date, was now married to a beautiful model, had a beautiful young family. And then came the bombshell in late 2009, he was having an affair with a nightclub hostess, or what in some circles might be known as a Jersey Chaser (or F^@&#r – aka, a woman who chases pro athletes). That’s about when Tiger took a 9 iron to the face from his wife prior to him wrecking his ‘Slade. It came out soon after this that Tiger pretty much was a serial philanderer over the last couple years, and would often hang out with new friends Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley in Vegas, living the high life, smoking cigars, betting in private high-roller rooms, surrounded by the unobtanium beautiful girls. (MJ and CB would say, off the record, that Tiger was a little naive, out of his element, and after the scandal broke, stopped hanging out with him because, like, Dude, that’s not how you do it.)

        After that, Tiger was basically finished. His body was broken. His head was broken. His game was broken.

        Now, would his game have fallen apart due to age anyway? Perhaps. But my whole perspective on watching TW implode comes down to this: He managed to hold it together on the course for two and a half years after his father’s death. Meanwhile, without his father — his handler, shall we call him — applying external discipline and control on Tiger’s baser desires, Tiger’s life off the course went, well, off course. He destroyed his family and his reputation when he made his own life decisions. While Earl was alive, Tiger followed the script. Without his father, Tiger soon crashed and burned.

        Armchair shrinks and some golf analysts hint that maybe Tiger was “programmed” by his dad. That Earl had used the techniques he learned in Viet Nam working with the CIA on his own child. And without Earl, the programming went awry. I’m not willing to go that far, though being married to Dr Hearse, psychologist, it’s an interesting theory. I am willing to say that Earl used military-style discipline and control to keep Tiger completely focused on golf, and away from the temptations that are dangled in front of multi-millionaire young male athletes. Temptations Tiger was unable to resist on his own. And the rest, as they say, is history, still unfolding before our eyes.

  9. VolandoBajo

    Lo, how the mighty have fallen.

    When he was at the top of his game, everything went just the way it was supposed to for him, just the way he wanted it to. Could literally will himself to the front of the pack.

    But once that spell was broken, he could see that it was broken…could see that it was not as it had been. And since it could now be as it never had been, he was vulnerable. And once he was vulnerable, he could never again confidently play without fear, just knowing he was the king, the top, the leader of the pack.

    Once he struggled, he always had to struggle, and could never again attain that mental clarity and focus he had held from the time his father trained him to put himself there before he ever set foot on a course.

    The Tiger Woods of those previous days is as dead and as alien to the Tiger Woods of today, as a person who is dead and buried would be.

    Once it’s gone, you can’t go back…out of the blue, and into the black.

    He will always be remembered for what he once was. But he will always be remembered as once having been there.

    Once the crack in the mental armor appeared, there was no gluing it back together and pretending it had never cracked.

    And so it remains, from now on in, forever cracked…a shadow of the mental superman he once was. He cannot shake the reality of what has come to pass, yet he is obsessed with the idea of at least gaining some of it back. And the harder he tries, the more his shot wavers from the pure thing that it once was.

    Sad, but still, better to have been on the top, and now to be no longer the king, than to never have been king.

    Though I doubt it feels that way for him, for more than the briefest of moments. And then the failures, the doubts, the struggles come back to haunt him…on the course, before and after tournaments, as he lays in bed trying to rest the night before or the night after.

    He is a haunted man whose failures have made him his own worst enemy, and he suffers and bleeds silently, invisibly, yet in plain sight of himself and others.

    A great sadness. He is not, and was not, a perfect man. But he was a noble warrior, now reduced to dragging his shield about, jousting and striving to do enough to show that he is still at least very good. And that goal just barely is in reach, and then, only part of the time.

    I feel sad for him, as sad as it is possible to be for a person who still has more than most of us will ever have, a hundred or a thousand times over. In spite of that, he is a man, and he suffers, and bleeds inside, just like any of the rest of us, only more so, because the fall was so sudden and so far down.

    Some gloat over this fall. Others of us just are sad for this great fall from grace. I am one of the latter. Unfortunately, there are too many of the former, and each one who watches him, who sees him eye to eye, inflicts yet another cut on the man’s psyche.

    For all he has, I do not envy him, because for him, he once had almost everything that mattered to him, and now he knows he will likely never have that kind of admiration and success again.

    That is all you can say…sorry for your loss. I wish he would return to his former glory. But I doubt that that is possible, given the internal dynamic of his psyche. Most sad.


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