It's been almost three years since Tiger Woods crashed his car into a fire hydrant and set the golfing world on its head. Since then he has struggled to regain his peak form, battling through layoffs, marriage counseling, divorce, injuries and a complete overhaul of his swing.
Golf analysts have struggled to make sense of his dismal performance relative to his past achievements. There is an overwhelming journalistic temptation to highlight dramatic contrasts between his current results and his past results without providing the appropriate context.
This leads to some commentary that a veteran Tiger watcher like myself can find amusing and frankly, dumb.
There are dozens of statements and opinions to choose from, but here are the top five that make me scratch my head and laugh.
5. NBC play by play announcer Dan Hicks said this during the recent U.S. Open telecast: "Tiger's now 0-49 in majors when trailing after 54 holes."
And exactly who has a better record in this category? Heck, there might only be a handful of players who have QUALIFIED for 49 majors in the last 12 years. Certainly there are only a few who have won more than one major. So what's the best record from that bunch, two for 36 in majors when trailing after 54 holes? One out of 42? Is there one iota of meaning to this statistic?
4. "He's thinking about his swing too much. What was wrong with the old one anyway? He won a bunch of majors with it."
Tiger Woods is the only player in history to win majors with three completely different swings. He first learned a new swing with Butch Harmon after his Masters victory in 1997 and again starting in 2002 with Hank Haney.
He's now working with Sean Foley on a third swing change. In each case, he has been forced to change his swing in order to reduce the torque and stress on his injured left knee.
Since he's already successfully gone through this process twice, you'd think the tendency would be to acknowledge the evidence and patiently wait for the new swing to click. Why analysts can't or won't figure this out baffles me.
3. "He's mentally broken." Or, as Nick Faldo said when he kicked his club at the Masters this year, "He's lost his game and his mind." Hey guys, he didn't play that much different during his last two swing changes. During his work with Butch Harmon and Hank Haney, Tiger entered into a total of 20 majors and didn't win one of them. That's five years worth of failure in majors by the so called "old Tiger".
He's been working with Foley since August 2010, and unlike his previous swing changes, for a good part of that time he was unable to play and practice due to several different injuries. So let's not give up on Tiger's mental game so quick, OK?
2. "He can only win on certain courses. Half of his 73 wins have come at the same six courses: Bay Hill, Torrey Pines, Firestone, Cog Hill, Muirfield and Augusta National."
This old saw has been dogging Tiger since after the '97 Masters victory. Tiger didn't win another major for almost three years while grooving his Butch Harmon swing change. During this long period, all the pundits agreed that he won at Augusta in '97 only because it suited his game. And since Augusta had been lengthened, or "Tiger proofed", most analysts felt Tiger was an overrated, over advertised, fist pumping hot dog who would never win another major.
Thirteen major victories later, they've resurrected a new version of this criticism—that he's really not that great except on those six courses. Let's just say this, Jack Nicklaus won his 73 events at almost the exact same number of golf courses as Tiger. Next question, please.
1. The last comes from former Tour player Paul Azinger. I can't find the exact quote, but he was commenting on the fact that Jack Nicklaus, unlike Tiger, rarely won any tournament by a large margin. Azinger said Jack was a classy player who just wanted to beat people, while Tiger wants to step on their necks and humiliate them.
Right. We're supposed to believe that Jack Nicklaus never won by wide margins because he took his foot off the pedal in order not to embarrass his competitors. I guess that's why he finished second to Trevino and Watson in six majors. He felt sorry for them and wanted to share the glory. Give me a break.
By the way, in 2001 Tiger won the Memorial by seven strokes. You know who finished second that year? You guessed it. Paul Azinger.