Read the opposing argument from Optimist Prime.
Who is this doppelganger? Tiger Woods the ultra-focused, robotically talented golfer has been replaced by some pretender with a hastily grown goatee. It’s as if he was kidnapped to another universe and all the kidnappers could find to replace the real Tiger Woods with was this questionably talented look alike.
Now, in a sports culture of what have you done for me lately, Cory Pavin – the wizard behind the curtain, the man responsible for choosing the golfers for the Ryder Cup team – thinks he has a hard decision to make. He does not. Tiger Woods is not playing good enough golf right now to warrant a spot representing his country in the Ryder Cup.
Tiger’s latest record from the Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio last week is the culmination of months of distractions and less practice time, resulting in the disappearance of the dominating game we have all grown accustomed to. He finished 18 over par. EIGHTEEN! Allow that to sink in. There is a good chance that Bleacher Fan could have outplayed Tiger Woods last week.
I don’t really need to rehash all of Tiger’s recent struggles on the golf course. His drives are off. He is not getting up and down like he was this time last year. His putter… well… it just isn’t there. He has lost his feel for golf. We all know this. These aren’t the kinds of skills that a weekend of practice will correct, either. A golf swing is a carefully managed and engineered athletic maneuver that requires refinement, precision, and constant maintenance. Tiger is admittedly spending less time practicing, and it shows in his game.
Perhaps Tiger could invest time to fix some of his struggles, however. Only, his arrogance keeps getting in the way. He fired his long-time swing coach. He recently issued a press statement about how he is working with a coach again to quiet some of that criticism. But, the effects of a great swing coach are not seen overnight. And they will definitely not be seen in time for the next major or the Ryder cup.
I want to be clear about something. I genuinely respect that Tiger Woods does not practice as much as he used to in order to spend more time with his kids. That’s great. Family should always come first. But, Tiger is just learning how to balance his family with his golf career. Up until this year, his golf career always came first (along with that other stuff…). Now Tiger’s focus is split, and he’s unaccustomed to winning with less practice and a dual focus in life. That is okay. But, it takes time to work through balancing these two worthy ambitions.
Other golfers, like Phil Mickelson, have been balancing family and golf for years. He is an excellent golfer who will be consistently good. Tiger is reinventing himself as a person, and his game, at the same time. It is not an easy thing to do. If anyone can do it, it seems like Tiger can. But, he hasn’t done it yet.
Here are the facts. Tiger Woods, the hollow, nominal number one golfer in the world, has not won this year. He just completed a tournament where he shot 18 over par. He has gotten progressively worse throughout the year with each passing tournament. He is outside the top eight golfers who would automatically qualify for the Ryder Cup team, and is in need of a special selection. Corey Pavin probably will pick Woods for the Ryder Cup team, caving to likely pressure about TV ratings and sponsors. But he shouldn’t. Tiger Woods simply isn’t a good golfer right now. He’s not even a fair golfer. Right now, he’s downright bad. And right now is all that matters for this selection.
The old Tiger Woods is the best golfer in the world… perhaps ever. But the old Tiger Woods is gone. The new Tiger Woods, this doppelganger with a beard, is still sorting himself out. And he has never looked worse while doing it (surprisingly, that’s not another beard reference). But, like my fresh and esteemed colleague Optimist Prime points out, he was once the best. Odds are good that he’ll get back there. But it’ll take time. And the Ryder Cup is too soon to take the risk. Let’s give Tiger time to figure his life and his golf game out – without the burden of an international spotlight.