So close, yet so far, seems to be Tiger Woods’ motto these days as the golf legend continues to seesaw between success and disappointment on the course.
I suppose it’s no fault of Tiger’s that people overreacted to his U.S. Open lead after 36 holes. Since when should a halftime lead ever be presumed safe, in any sport? While perhaps tickled with a minor sense of excitement, Tiger knows that Saturday is just the beginning, especially in a Major Championship.
On the other hand, tied for the lead going into the third round at Olympic was no a shock as Woods won the Memorial Tournament heading into the U.S. Open, enhancing his resume with top five finishes in five tournaments played this year.
Just when you think El Tigre has all of the pieces in order for a 15th Major victory, the puzzle falls apart and ends up in a scattered pile on the scorecard. What we witnessed with Tiger’s Memorial victory and subsequent U.S. Open collapse mirrored that of his Arnold Palmer win and Masters meltdown.
Tiger can easily go from unbelievable tee shots and back-to-back birdies to literally scaring the birds in the sky with ugly swings before landing in the trees and taking out their nests. Let’s not even discuss his putting issues.
Every golfer experiences days, rounds and even entire tournaments plagued by inconsistent play, but we still can’t come to grips with the fact that Woods is now just like “ever golfer,” something he never was before.
People love to champion the underdog while hating winners, and now Tiger somehow fits both bills. He’s the Yankees and the Mets at the same time.
Love him or hate him, golf is not the same without Tiger in contention. Period. His presence alone creates a unique drama that no other golfer can generate.
The good news for the sport is that Tiger is finally back on his game, as much as any golfer can be after more than three years of professional misery. Rome wasn’t built in a day and athletes don’t exactly become winners overnight (well, aside from Jeremy Lin). It has taken a long time for Tiger to rebuild his physical game and more importantly, his mental fortitude. He has the tangible tools to win more Majors, but his mind seems unable to sustain the top-notch physicality and focus that guided him, pre-personal life collapse.
Tiger will win another major and he’ll do it soon. It might take the rest of this season, getting a few more PGA Tour wins under his belt, before winning a Major next season. That seems like more of a natural progression than winning a Major this year.
Will he ever be the Tiger of old? No, primarily because he lost too many critical years of his professional youth and at age 36, he is now bordering on plain old “old.” But Woods has too much talent not to find enough of his former self to win a few more Majors.
Jackie Pepper is a sports journalist with nearly a decade of experience. As an anchor and reporter for Comcast SportsNet in Boston she covered the Patriots, Celtics, Red Sox and Bruins for the network's flagship show SportsNet Central and sister station New England Cable News.
In addition to her work with Comcast Boston, Pepper also anchored and reported for CBS affiliate KIDK, covering the Utah Jazz and various sports teams throughout the United States.
Pepper began her sports journalism career as a college radio reporter and talk show host at the University of Arizona. She went on to work for ABC Sports, ESPN and NFL Network. Recently she started her own sports website, www.pepperonsports.com, featuring daily interviews, commentary and articles on the latest sports news.
Pepper also frequently contributes to LIVE radio broadcasts as a guest sports and cultural analyst.
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