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Harsh Reaction to Tiger’s Withdrawal

Tiger Woods
Reaction to Tiger Woods' derailed comeback have been mixed with harshness, skepticism and optimism.

Tiger Woods has drawn some criticism after his withdrawal from the Safeway Open, but it’s not all bad.

Some are disappointed in his decision not to play: “He is healthy, after all. He could have teed it up.”

Others are questioning his ability to ever come back in a meaningful way. “Sure, he might play again, but he’s done. Mentally, he’s cooked.”

And others are optimistic. “He’s got a few wins left in him. Hopefully.”

Here is the most critical headline I’ve seen, courtesy of the New York Post:

Tiger Woods shows true colors in screwing over the whole golf world

Well, that’s a bit over the top. The article itself is less incendiary, but it claims Tiger was fearful of being lapped by Phil Mickelson, with whom it was believed Woods would have been paired the first two days. Here is the accusation:

“But Woods, whose world ranking has tumbled to 786th, clearly wanted no part of being paired with Mickelson for fear Mickelson, who has been in top form this year (most recently highlighted by his incredible performance at the Ryder Cup), would outclass him for two days.”

{Win an Ireland Golf Trip}Is Tiger scared of defeat, especially to his longtime rival Mickelson? Is Mickelson really in Tiger’s head?

Maybe the notion of playing to make cuts instead of playing to win is simply too much for him to bear at the moment. Mere mortals can deal with losing. But for Tiger, who has always expected to win, that’s a bitter pill to swallow. It’s clear that Tiger’s once-unparalleled game is lost at the moment.

Nick Faldo knows what it’s like to lose one’s game.

Faldo told BBC Sport: “You wish him well but what does Tiger want to prove?”

“I know personally golf is a wicked game, it dangles a carrot. Ten years ago I’d hit balls and think, ‘I can still play, I can still hit it’ – then you’d go to the course and can’t make a score. Everything is stacking up against him now. Physically, mentally and obviously competing.”

Isn’t this exactly what we’re hearing about Tiger now? Just last week, Jesper Parnevik was telling us about Tiger “flushing it” on the range. On the other hand, Notah Begay thinks Tiger is lacking “the feel shots, the in-between shots.” Tiger just doesn’t have the confidence that his range game will translate to the golf course. It’s mental.

Luke Donald agrees that it’s in Tiger’s head.

The former World No. 1 knows how mentally difficult it is to return from injury. Donald was out for six months with a wrist injury in 2008. Here are the Englishman’s thoughts:

“It sounds like, clinically, he is fine – he is just not quite ready to tee it up from a mental standpoint. There’s a lot of mental anguish when you take time off.

“I think Tiger, the greatest player ever, has very high standards and that is creating a fear of failure. At some point, he’s got to jump in — if he messes up, he’s got a good opportunity to get better the next time he plays.”

In other words, it will be hard, but Tiger should start trying. Be optimistic.

Brandel Chamblee is not optimistic.

The outspoken Golf Channel analyst does not see a positive future for Tiger.

“What has happened to Tiger Woods is really the perfect storm of destruction for an athlete,” Chamblee said. “We’ve seen Tiger Woods’s golf swing decay, his body decay and then his chipping decay.

“Once you’ve been visited upon by the yips, when you’re chipping it just never goes away. There’s nothing more exciting in golf, maybe in sports, than watching Tiger Woods, but there are too many hurdles to overcome.”

And then Chamblee hits us with the kicker:

“I just don’t see him overcoming the yips.”

How’s that for a punch to the gut, Tiger fans?

Johnny Miller offers hope, though.

Yes, Johnny Miller hasn’t given up on Tiger, and neither should any of us.

“I know there’s a lot of pressure on Tiger after being away from professional golf for 14 months,” Miller said. “Everyone expects him to come back and play like the year 2000, but that’s just not going to happen.

“He’s not ever going to be the old Tiger, but I still think he can win, if he has the desire. I just hope he can find a bit of joy in the game again.”

Does Tiger still have the desire to win? I can’t imagine there’s a day in his life that the fire isn’t burning. You don’t win 79 PGA Tour titles without it, and I don’t think that goes away at age 40.

Don’t worry about the WD from November’s Turkish Airlines Open.

Still, shouldn’t we be concerned that Tiger withdrew from a tournament one month away? I’ll let his agent Mark Steinberg field this one.

“That would be an inappropriate thing to do,” Steinberg told Golf Digest regarding Woods returning at the European Tour event. “It’s my opinion, and Tiger and I talked about it and we agreed. He’s been out for 15 months. It’s not appropriate to come back to a non-PGA Tour sanctioned event.”

Makes sense, right? If and when Tiger makes his triumphant return, it should be in an event sanctioned by the Tour on which he is a long-standing member. Nothing to see here.

One person was happy about Tiger Woods’ withdrawal from the Safeway Open.

When one person withdraws, another person gets in. This week, that lucky guy is Max Homa.

Might I recommend dinner with Tiger at The Woods Jupiter? The owner might give you a comped meal.



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