Friday, December 5, 2014

Tiger Woods. The latest

Sound the trumpets, bring on the dancing girls, and stay glued to twitter feeds. His Highness Eldrick Tont Woods is back. Again. Fittingly enough, in the Hero World Challenge.

Tiger is sporting a new swing, new clubs, new trainer, supposedly new attitude, and has anybody seen Lindsey Vonn lately? Maybe he's a got a new one of those too.

After a somewhat brutal 2014 season that saw him tumble in the world rankings, Woods has finally emerged to ply his trade stalking the links once again. And what better place to come out of seclusion and show up at than the Hero World Challenge? For over 20 years Eldrick has been put on a pedestal by his throngs of admirers/fans/groupies, and most certainly the sports media. They could never get enough of this guy. The TV folks would show highlights of past performances by Tiger even during tournaments he wasn't playing in, while ignoring the live action.

Perhaps it was because Woods was a black man that was dominating a predominantly white man's sport. And he certainly did for about a decade. Once upon a time, there was little doubt that Tiger would surpass Jack Nicklaus' all-time record of "major" victories. He was winning seemingly everything. Oddsmakers would take him over the entire field in any given tournament.

But then came his personal problems and injuries. Tiger crashed, and he hasn't been nearly the same ever since. He last won a major in 2008 -- his 14th. When the spring of 2015 and the Masters tournament rolls around, it will have been seven years since Woods won anything of note. In order to catch Jack, he would have to be the first player in golfing history to win 4 majors after reaching the ripe old age of 39.

And that's not likely. In recent years, the question has been more whether Woods would make a cut and, if so, would he self-destruct on the weekend?

When Tiger was a young gun, he was definitely feared by veteran players on tour. Now Woods is just another old guy and the current young guns (that have popped up from around the globe and will most likely continue to do so in the future) know they can not only stare him down -- but beat him. Times have changed. Turns out the new kids on the block have every bit as much game and poise under pressure as Woods once had.

Time will tell (and 2015 will be especially telling) whether Woods still has some of the old magic left in him and can return to being a force in the world of professional golf at its highest levels. Besides the young guns that keep on coming, he's battling Father Time as well at this stage of his career.

Nevertheless, Tiger's first foray back onto the world stage, after months of preparation, was a resounding thud. In the opening round of the Hero Challenge, he hit a drive into a neighboring back yard, duffer-chumped 4 chip shots, didn't putt well, shot a 77, and wound up dead last out of a field of 18. A full eleven strokes behind the leader -- after ONE round.

Maybe Eldrick eventually gets his game back together, and maybe he doesn't. And perhaps it's unfair to judge him after only one round. But this initial performance was hardly that of a hero. More like an over-the-hill has-been showing up for a paycheck.

But never fear, the media, internet, and TV folks were all over it. Evidently, even Tiger stinking it up -- again -- remains fascinating in their world. Amazing.

How bad does this guy have to get before the hero worship stops?

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