Tiger Skips Safeway, Will Play Hero Challenge in December
Another quick chapter in the Tiger Woods recovery saga has come and gone. Despitie having his game desert him at some point in the past few years, he can still get a rise out of us when he says he will come back. Few, if any of us really know what’s going with either Tiger’s game, or what’s going through his mind, but to some, it looks like a very great golfer who isn’t very great anymore, and is having trouble letting go. The most confident mind in golf since Jack Nicklaus used to be a steel trap, but it appears that nature has called his bluff, and the body and mind just won’t obey anymore.
One observer noted that Tiger was obligated to play in the Safeway, because he took a leave-of-absence from the Turkish Airlines Open. In the case of illness or some horrific event, it’s not so uncommon to see a withdrawal, but we’re not quite sure what happened three days out from round 1. While Tiger did not arrive to prepare for the Safeway, he did offer a public exhibition, and most observers seemed to think that he’s in pretty good shape. An exhibition, however, isn’t the same as one swing, take the result. One can keep hitting the driver from the same tee until it goes right. Tiger is also sponsorless, since Nike has left the golf club manufacturing world. He is playing with an old set, and with the putter that won championship after championship for him. He’s only been hitting the driver again for the last 6 weeks, and describes his game as “vulnerable,” Inside reports say that he’s still terrified of the “chip-yips,” which anyone from the rankest amateur to world great can easily understand. For some of us, a chip-shanking or chunking problem is the golf equivalent of food poisoning. It’s also not something we like to put out in front of the general public.
It is also easy to understand why Tiger wouldn’t want to be embarrassed by turning in two so-so to bad rounds, then leaving the tournament via missing the cut. This was a golfer who simply never courted the MC category. On the other hand, with 14 majors and a zillion other wins, as much as anyone’s, why would Tiger Woods possibly owe anyone an apology? I’m with Tiger on this one. A great one doesn’t want to go on as an ex-great one when he’s barely 40.
Forty is a tricky age. According to Johnny Miller, Tiger could have a wonderful decade left, and that’s been well-proven by other golfers who played well for a long time. Looking at it differently, the body doesn’t want to take or give the same impact as it did twenty years before. Tiger is looking for more speed in his swing, which may be a search for speed without torque in all the wrong places. I’ve always thought that if his chipping and putting go well, he could give up 20 yards on the drive and still succeed, but a historically great driver wouldn’t want to hear that. The word “vulnerable” is also a tricky one. Confidence that is no longer confident is a bad place to be.
People characterize their own goals differently, but there are some loath to give up the “I’m X number of years old, so I need to accomplish X,Y, and Z before Year X,Y, and Z.” There is another type that can look back and say “It’ll do – good job, self.” I don’t know where Tiger is in that process, but he can certainly look back with considerable pride on what he’s done. He was the greatest golfer on the planet for years, and got into the “greatest of all time” conversation as a serious contender. We’re all going to wait another two months, but after a while, Tiger’s got to play or not play.