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Woods woes deepen ahead of USPGA

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Rob Hodgetts | 11:50 UK time, Monday, 9 August 2010

Jack Nicklaus said in May that Corey Pavin "would need a brain scan" if he left Tiger Woods out of the US Ryder Cup team.

Now you could argue the American skipper needs his head examining if he does pick the world number one.

Woods's dismal finish at the WGC event in Ohio at the weekend - a final-round 77 dropping him to second last in the 80-man field - suggests the American's game, as well as his private life, is in free fall.

Tiger WoodsTiger Woods had a weekend to forget at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio

With his once impregnable mask of invincibility lying in a heap of dust around his feet, Woods finds himself alongside Michael Schumacher and Lance Armstrong as former greats looking a shadow of their former selves. At least they can use age as an excuse.

Woods is now 10th in the US Ryder Cup standings, with the top eight at the end of the USPGA on Sunday receiving automatic spots. He will probably have to finish inside the first eight at Whistling Straits to squeeze into the team. If not, it's up to Pavin, who will name his four wildcards on 7 September.

The skipper will make his choices based on a wide range of factors, not just one poor tournament. But Woods's form, allied to the ongoing turmoil at home following his marital infidelities, a less than stellar Ryder Cup record (10 wins, 13 losses, two halves) and the need for a harmonious US camp suggest Pavin might prefer to go with a team of hungry young guns, marshalled by Phil Mickelson.

Woods, remember, was sidelined after knee surgery for the 2008 event at Valhalla and the US won for the first time in nine years.

At the Masters in April, Woods was asked about playing in the Ryder Cup. "Would I like to play in it? If I qualify," he said. At Firestone last week, he avoided committing himself to taking up a wildcard, three times batting away the question with the stock answer: "I'm planning on playing my way into the team."

That's hardly the talk of someone with a burning ambition to play, in stark contrast to many of his young compatriots who are sounding positively European in their drive to make a Ryder Cup team.

Now, the 14-time major champion may have a ready excuse to swerve the event. "I would not help the team if I was playing like this," said Woods, who has never really loved the Ryder Cup. It's a tricky situation though - if he is found to have twisted Pavin's arm to leave him out, it would put another huge dent in his already fragile public image.

None of us can know what's going on in Woods's head, but trying to be a good father to his two children while his marriage lies in tatters can't help with the focus, either on the golf course or on the practice range.

In statistical terms this season, Woods ranks 163rd in driving accuracy, 166th in greens in regulation and 129th in putts per round.

Butch HarmonFormer coach Butch Harmon (left), now with Phil Mickelson, says Woods "looks lost"

Woods's scrambling and his ability to sink crucial putts - for par as well as birdies - have been the hallmarks of his greatness over the years. Now, he just can't get the ball in the hole.

His determination to keep plugging away is commendable but Woods is competing without a coach after Hank Haney quit in May, and another former coach Butch Harmon - now with arch-rival Mickelson - says Woods "looks lost".

"Tiger Woods right now is playing the worst I've ever seen him play," said Harmon.
"He has got to get his head right; he's got to get his life in order before he can even think about playing golf."

Woods likened his current struggles to the period after the Masters in 1997 when he remodelled his swing under Harmon, but admitted it is worse than his previous "slump" in 2003 before he began working with Haney.

"I think I can turn it round," he said on Sunday, before adding wistfully, "but it's been a long year."

We mustn't get too carried away writing off Woods. Mickelson carded an even worse final round in Ohio - a 78, including a front nine of 41. Sometimes you have to take the rough with the smooth.

Also, the WGC event featured no cut - ordinarily, Woods would have just missed the weekend, a minor indignity compared to the headline-grabbing record-worst finish.

Mickelson's collapse meant he missed the chance to overtake Woods as world number one, but he can do so again at Whistling Straits if results go his way, as can world number four Steve Stricker. Lee Westwood, ranked third, is missing with a calf injury.

Despite Woods's woes, he has finished fourth in two majors this year and fired a stunning third-round 66 in the US Open at Pebble Beach, a glimpse of the charging Tiger of old.

His tied 23rd at the Open wasn't poor, just distinctly average for a man who had strolled to the last two events at St Andrews.

So it seems that at the moment we just don't know which Tiger Woods is going to turn up. Terminal decline, or minor blip? Perhaps Pavin is not willing to take that risk.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I'd say Tiger played up the bad golf, once he realised he wasn't contending, so as to escape the nightmare prospect (for him, at this current time) of the Ryder Cup.

  • Comment number 2.

    I think it's Tiger Woods who needs a brain scan. What was he thinking to get his career, his entire life so far of course - something he replays with almost every drive, which indeed could be the proverbial Freudian slip acted out before our eyes.
    It would be (I think) very shaming For Tiger Woods not to make "the US Ryder Cup", but need to be selected.
    It will be a long time before we see the old Tiger Woods, could even be never. Why?
    Because somewhere along the line, Tiger got so arrogrant, apparently so self-centered that he nedded nothing but himself - no coach for him; he'll play his own way - on and off the course. It's like: "Well, Tiger, how's that working for you?"
    I'm not going too far in speculation, but this man appears broken, and Humpty-Dumpty cannot put himself together again.
    Sometimes, I feel his fate is justified because he went so far of course and wounded so many people; sometimes I feel he got off light. But sooner or later, I stop and realize: "Dear God, my private life has NOT always been straight as an arrow." Then I hope, somehow, Tiger Woods gives himself a second chance.

  • Comment number 3.

    Tiger is playing terribly at the minute, and probably will for some time. However in life and golf terms he is still a young enough man to be more then able to get his life in order and get back to the form which will be good enough to win tournaments and to write him off is stupid. All players have peaks and troughs - Woods' are just more public then everyone elses.

    That said, if I was a fat yank, I would want him on the team - but - not in this form.

  • Comment number 4.

    The decision will not be Corey Pavin's to make.

    Should Tiger not make the cut automatically then he will inform Pavin that he doesn't feel beign in the team would be in the bet interests of the US challenge. Despite what most people think he does care about the Ryder Cup and knows that barring a massive turnaround in form anf focus he is serving the team better by staying well away from it right now.

    Perhaps he needs a proper break from it all, there was always going to be massive pressure on his return after all his problems but a second break and return now would probably be for the best. Get himself a new coach and settle back down again. He WILL come again.

  • Comment number 5.

    He'll be back. Don't write him off

  • Comment number 6.

    It's Tigers own fault, I fear he is finished

  • Comment number 7.

    Tiger isn't finished. But he's at a real odd place. I personally think he should completely take a break from golf and sort out his divorce or whatever first. Coming back with that still up in the air is a mistake really. He shouldn't be playing golf to get away from his problems because they are adding to them. He is getting worse and worse round by round every tournament. He's still the world number one, only because Phil choked on his chance. Maybe Tiger should copy Sergio Garcia - announce he's taking a break after the last major and rule himself out of the Ryder Cup? Then sort his off-course things out, get a coach maybe find a way of hitting the ball straight!

  • Comment number 8.

    I blame his little beard

  • Comment number 9.

    Pickles91

    Problem is he's already done the "having a break" thing and it didn't help his game one bit, in fact it's probably the main reason for his poor form.

    It's all between his ears, I don't think he believes he's going to win tournaments like he used to.

  • Comment number 10.

    Arrogant, rude and he has brought the game into disrepute with his antics on the golf course ( off course not our concern). To be a great champion like Nicklaus or Watson you need dignity and humility.You also need to respect your opponents . I , for one hopes he goes no where Nicklaus' record. The "aura" of invincibilty has gone , which is good for golf , allows others to win majors and certainly makes it less boring.
    I have no sympathy for him he has self destructed due to himself and no one else.

  • Comment number 11.

    Tiger will be back. He'll smoke Nicklaus, Watson and the rest. This man is the greatest of all time. We're all privileged to see him.

  • Comment number 12.

    Blasos, normally I'd agree with you, but don't the event of this season call it into doubt?
    I'm only going as far as saying I have doubts. I'm not certain that Tiger won't bounce back, but nor am I certain that he will any longer. People talk about 97-98 and 2003, but the problems then were clearly technical. I begin to wonder (and again, I don't know for sure, as Tiger gives little away) if his problems now aren't psychological too.
    One theory I have is that Tiger's image meant a lot more to him than we perhaps realise. Golf, particularly in America, is a very conservative sport, and it was telling that Tom Watson felt comfortable telling Woods to 'clean up his act'. Woods has clearly lost the admiration of many people; and he may crave that more than we might think.

  • Comment number 13.

    Tiger at the moment is just a mess.... I have to say that what happened late last year has completely tainted him as a person in my eyes but it is fascinating to watch and I do feel sorry for him.

    He looks so uncomfortable out there at the moment its like the last place he wants to be is in the middle of a crowd on a golf course. Is he at his lowest point??? I don't know...... I certainly don't see how he is going to break the cycle with the constant reminder of what happened everywhere he looks. He has no golf coach and I think he lacks trust of people right now to buy into another coaches swing thoughts.

    IF he plays in the Ryder Cup one thing I would say is that he has 'balls' as I couldn't imagine a worse place to be. The stick he would get from a vocal Pro-European crowd could be unbearable for him and there is so much more that the players do over their weekend which involves their wives/family members (again a constant & embarrassing reminder which the media would have a field day with).

    Never thought I would say it but it may be best for golf if he sits this one out.

  • Comment number 14.

    ryder cup this ryder cup that.
    an overated exhibition match,thats all it is.
    im pretty sure tiger woods can handle any kind of pressure associated with this years event.
    like ANY other player,if hes playing well he would love to be there.if he isnt ,he wont.

  • Comment number 15.

    Whatever his mental strength for competition, the war going on in his private life and that isn't going to go away tomorrow.

    At some point he's going to have to figure out if he wants to try and be the greatest golfer in history and do what all great champions do, remove the obstacles in the way. Mrs Tiger is clearly making him take the hard path so it looks like an expensive, but quick, divorce will be the best outcome if he wants to find his way again in golf.

    He doesn't need Hank Haney, he needs Burgess Meredith in Rocky!!

  • Comment number 16.

    Unlress Woods enjoys a top 15 finish at Whistling Straits, his US season is likely to be over, having completed just nine events (short of the statutory 15 minimum (Stenson also take note) at an average prize winnings haul per start about $15K below that of Pavin. He'll fall out of the top 125 necessary to make the play-offs and has no intention of teeing it up at Greensboro next week in a bid to retrieve a top 125 position.

    But Whistling Straits won't suit a fit Tiger, let alone the wounded version, 24th in 2004 when in his prime. It's very difficult to imagine Woods hitching a ride on the Ryder Cup team when he won't have played for more than a month.

    See he's made the sort of overseas commitments (to China, Australia and Dubai) when he's so loth to commit to PGA Tour events. perhaps he needs the appearance money.

  • Comment number 17.

    "ryder cup this ryder cup that.
    an overated exhibition match,thats all it is."

    Yes, it's an exhibition match - overated? Not in the slightest. Have you ever been to see a day of a Ryder Cup? I guess the passion the players show is just some act or something, because when i went in '02 there was an electric atmosphere and player involvement (from the homeside naturally) i've never witnessed at a sporting event.

    I guess you should also look at the likes of Seve in '97 (or throughout his entire Ryder Cup career), the whole US/European team in '99, both sides in '91 (and i could go on and on and on) for the utter drive and passion the players have to win.

    And moving on from a ill informed comment

    Woods has finished in the top 5 in 2/3 of the majors this year. His personal life is all over the place, is it no wonder that he's going to have bad weeks here and there? If someone like Rory Mc finished in the top 5 in 2 majors in a year i've got no doubt this average excuse for an article would be all over him. Fact is Wood's has set a huge benchmark for himself, he's only human and more to the point he's too good not to come back.

  • Comment number 18.

    One word: schadenfraude. Pass the popcorn. Watching train wrecks aint got nuttin on this.

  • Comment number 19.

    First thing he has to do is learn to ignore the media and the pathetic hypocrites who accuse him of "bringing the game into disrepute". His private life is his affair and his only. The media know that they can abuse him and get away with it - so he just has to learn to ignore it all.

    If things continue to worsen he could simply dump golf and take up a real sport instead.

  • Comment number 20.

    I can't believe people say that Tiger deliberately played badly to avoid being picked for the Ryder Cup. Tiger said a few months ago he would retire from golf if he didn't play decent golf. He has massive pride in his game. I'd love to see his reaction if people accused him of not trying, best take cover.

    The fact is his head's in a mess. Until he sorts that out he'll never be right. When he sorts he's head out and gets a new coach to give him direction he'll be back.

    Tigers never lie in the grass for long.

  • Comment number 21.

    Its over for woods, hes showing what a mockery the golf rankigs are.

    How federer can be nu,ber 3 in the world at tennis when winning a major this year, and woods barely even being able to hold the club and hes still number 1??

    He just not that telented, not that good, the players dont fear his aura anymore, which was what he thrived on. His putting and chipping wont get any better, and his swing is not exactly going to last him well in his fourties..

    Woods was never as naturally gifted as els and micklesons, but what he had was a immense mental advantage due to his vietnam conditioning his dad gave him.

    Off course antics aside hes a poor role model, not liked on the tour, spits, throws clubs, moans..

    The bible does preach what goes around comes around...

  • Comment number 22.

    Anyone notice how Tiger's appearance has changed a lot in the last few years? He's going bald and got tired rings around his eyes. Putting on a bit of weight on his face too. He doesn't have that cold killer look these days. Just getting older I guess. He is human after all. Still I wouldn't write him off. He'll be around for years more. Inevitable he'll win more majors.

  • Comment number 23.

    Up until now, Tiger Woods has been coach-less for a few months, and we've all seen the results.
    The AP is reporting that Woods asked Sean Foley to have a look at his swing and then Foley walked with Woods, O'Hair and Mahan (Foley works with O'Hair and Mahan) for nine holes.
    Doug Ferguson reports:
    "Asked if he was working with Woods, Foley said: 'I wouldn't say that. But the possibility is there.'"
    As Mahan and O'Hair (and fellow disciple Stephen Ames) showed at the weekend, Foley has obtained some good results from his pupils, with the full swing at least; none of the three are quite so swift around the greens.

  • Comment number 24.

    Tiger Wood's problem is certainly psychological. Whether caused, or aggravated, by his personal shenanigans is not really the issue.

    The reality was touched on during the commentary of this year's Open, when it was mentioned that his swinging on the practice ground is so smooth, yet on the course during play it is so erratic.

    Indeed, you can see the way he hits far too hard from the top of his swing, as though he is desperate to hit the ball or simply wants to smash it into submission. The obvious symptom is the drop of his head, which is way more than any other pro.

    Curiously, you can see this basic error on just about every municipal course, seeing amateurs trying to hit the ball as hard as the pros.

    The greatest difficulty with this is trying to correct it, as it often comes from deep within. Even when you know you are doing it, it is very hard to stop yourself.

    Such is what I see with Tiger. In years gone by he could control himself to an extraordinary degree, but I think that ability has gone. It is unlikely to return.

    There have been similar examples in the past, though none quite so high profile. Ian Baker Finch was one, who could beat his colleagues easily in friendly matches, but couldn't break 80 in competition. David Duval another. From shooting 59 to barely ever making the cut.

    Mark my words, Tiger will not win another major. I doubt he will win any competition again.

  • Comment number 25.

    Stats are misleading. He has only played a handful of events, so his performances have all been at the very toughest venues / tightest faiways / fastest greens. All the other players stats would get a lot worse if you just took their performances at the same venues into account.

  • Comment number 26.

    Anyone who understands golf will know that talk of Tiger's demise is ridiculous. His off course problems are his own doing so no sympathy is appropriate or needed but it is madness to suggest that his career is over. Once his private life is sorted, he will be back winning tournaments and "majors". My guess is that he will struggle in this week's PGA and may not play in the Ryder Cup but he will be 100% for next years Masters and beyond. He's forgotten more about golf and winning big tournaments than the likes of Westwood will ever know - compare the record of Woods against any other player since 1997 and the dominance of the guy is staggering. There was a long and very good interview with Hank Haney in the latest Golf Digest / Golf World. Haney reckons Woods is yet to play his best golf and he will be back winning tournaments very soon - the other players better cash in now !! Form is temporary, class is permanent.

  • Comment number 27.

    Hi aardvark7, I really agree with a lot of what you wrote, in particular the view that the problem is psychological. I still can't quite find another explanation of why, when he came back earlier this year, he wore sunglasses for the first three tournaments. He only did that before when he played in Dubai to ward off the sun/sand/glare. To be fair Iain Carter said at the Masters this was down to the high pollen kicking about but I'm not convinced, I think this was a sign of his mental fragility.

    I totally agree with what you are saying about the practice ground v's tournament contrasting swings. As a hacker, I know I have a mental block where I can swing perfectly in my practice swing ( all relatively speaking of course;) and yet when I'm over the ball I always lash at it and I just can't stop myself doing it, if I slow down I just have a painful slow swing, I can't replicate that 'freedom' and timing of the practice.

    Anyway, one thing I do think will happen again is he will win again, and many times. True what you say about Baker Finch and Duval, but they simply were not Tiger Woods and I think he is different and will find a way back. I hope he does. I don't care for the man much as a person, mainly because I have never met him, but I do love to watch him in full cry on the golf course.

  • Comment number 28.

    I think it is all sham. Tiger doesn't know what pressure really is - Trevino said pressure was 'playing a $5 nassau with $2 in your pocket', when did Tiger ever have that kind of pressure.
    He is just a bad guy whose arrogance finally got him into trouble.
    He'll probably be back in golf though, more's the pity.

 

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