It’s been nearly two years since Tiger Woods’ last victory, the 2009 Australian Masters. The very next week he crashed his SUV in the now infamous accident on Thanksgiving. Nothing has been the same since. Thirty-eight months have passed since he last won a major. Following that U.S. Open triumph at Torrey Pines in 2008, his stock was higher than it had ever been. His phenomenal five-day performance over 91 holes on one leg had most considering Tiger the greatest athlete of all-time in any sport. It seemed like he could do no wrong, both on and off course. He had the all-world game, the bevy of endorsements, the beautiful wife, the adorable kids – he had it all. How quickly things have changed.
Physical ailments have contributed to his recent mediocrity, but certainly the bulk of his struggles are mental. The self doubt that must be entangling his mind, born from numerous failures since his return to competition at the 2010 Masters, is creating a sizable amount of scar tissue. Understandable if the concept of winning a tournament against more than 100 world class athletes at this moment seemed impossible to the former No. 1 player in golf.
For a man who had everything, what kind of mind-blow must it be to realize he threw it all away with his selfish actions? That can’t be easy on anyone. It could certainly ruin a mentally weaker individual for sure. From afar, Tiger Woods’ life seems like a tempest of turmoil: uncertainty at every turn, whether it’s his swing, or his schedule, or his caddie, or his health, or his personal life. The fact that this hasn’t totally ruined Tiger is a testament to his incredible mental and intestinal fortitude. If he can somehow will himself all the way back to the top of the mountain once again, after what he’s put himself and his family through these last few years, it might be the greatest redemption story in the history of sports.
That is why, despite a gaudy resume that boasts 71 wins worldwide, including 14 majors, Tiger’s next victory will be the biggest of his career. It will snap the longest winless drought of his life. It will reaffirm his greatness in a sport he once dominated. And it will reassume the pursuit of the record books, a pursuit that only a few years ago was considered a guarantee. Oddly enough, this pursuit is more interesting now than it ever was, if only because the final outcome is more a mystery than it ever seemed.
Freddie Couples is considering picking Tiger with one of his Presidents Cup captain’s picks. Based on recent results, there are more worthy candidates than Woods, namely Rickie Fowler and Keegan Bradley. But perhaps Freddie is thinking farther in the future than this November. Greg Norman picked a slumping Adam Scott for the International team two years ago, amid much debate. Many think that was part of what contributed to Scott’s resurrection from nearly falling out of the world’s top-100. The Aussie has a handful of wins since and is back in the World’s top-10.
The same thing could happen for Tiger, only time will tell. And he still has time on his side, despite this two-year slump in his career. But after once leading Jack Nicklaus’ major-victories pace by a comfortable margin, the two men are now in a dead heat. Tiger’s next chance at a win comes once the Fall Series begins in October. His next major opportunity is of course the Masters in April. If he is to someday challenge the Golden Bear’s record 18 major championships, he must return to the winner’s circle before much longer.
Listen to Russ Evans every Sunday morning at 8am on Golf Exchange presented by The Honda Classic. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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