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An Old Tiger Rather Than Tiger Of Old

PITTSFORD, NEW YORK | This was the week we were supposed to learn something about Tiger Woods. Perhaps we did. Woods came to the PGA Championship after a victory, after a tournament in which he shot 61 the second round. Surely we would see the old Tiger. What we saw, however, was an older, perplexed Tiger. A Tiger who couldn’t keep the ball on the fairway. A Tiger unable to sink needed putts. A Tiger seemingly unable to rely on his game. A Tiger who even many strokes behind, kept repeating his mantra of the majors, “I’m still right there.” A Tiger who after a 3-over-par 73 in the third round was a mixture of resignation – “We don’t play well every week; unfortunately for me it happened to me this week” – and dismay. A Tiger whose problems as perceived by one person were not the sort which show up on super slow-motion. Pete McDaniel is a journalist and author, who, working with Earl Woods, Tiger’s late father and mentor, co-wrote Training a Tiger: A Father’s Guide to Raising a Winner in Both Golf and Life. McDaniel believes Tiger’s troubles, his failure the past five years to win that 15th major, can be attributed to the inability to find someone in whom to confide. The way he confided in and was advised by Earl Woods. “He has things he has to purge,” said McDaniel of Tiger Woods, “things inside, things that are bothering him. He used to talk to Earl about those things. Now he doesn’t have anyone to talk to, anyone he trusts. Look at the way he played Oak Hill, trying to be conservative.” The way he played Oak Hill, where in four rounds at the 2003 PGA and the first three at the 2013 PGA Woods couldn’t break par. Where this year he appeared to be lacking confidence and definitely was lacking the verve and panache that used to be the essence of Tiger Woods’ golf. Was it because, as McDaniel explained, Woods is a lost soul? Or because of the natural progression of life and sport, youth and age? Of looking over his shoulder at golf’s slightly younger lions, Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, instead of looking ahead? Of realizing they play the way he once played – although in truth nobody plays the way Tiger Woods once played. Other than Jack Nicklaus. Even superstars decline. In the end, age wins the battle. Tiger’s only 37, but he’s an ancient 37. The four knee surgeries have taken their toll. So has the scandal of ’09, when Woods’ various affairs were trumpeted in headlines around the globe. Earl Woods died of cancer in May 2006. Two months later Tiger would win the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, then in August, the PGA at Medinah. In 2007, he would take the PGA at Southern Hills, then in 2008, on a broken leg, the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. Earl was gone, the greatness persisted. No longer. The Masters this year, the U.S. Open at Merion, the Open Championship at Muirfield, Woods was a contender, in the battle, the first couple of rounds at least, in Britain the first three rounds. He couldn’t finish. McDaniel allows that Woods never finished because he always started. Tiger didn’t need to rally. He simply overwhelmed. “In 2001,” McDaniel wrote recently, “when (Tiger) held all four major championships at one time – in what they refer to as the Tiger Slam – his most profound statement was, ‘What I am most proud of is that my game managed to peak at the right time, four times.’ “And I think that explains why he hasn’t been successful as of late. His game hasn’t peaked. All of his game. His driving might be on, his iron play might be on, but his putting is off. Or his putting might be on, and his driving and iron play might be off. He’s just like everybody else.” Except he does lead the Official World Golf Ranking. Except he does lead the PGA Tour money winnings. Except he has won five tournaments in 2013.


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