Tiger Woods, Stuck on 14: How His Major Win Window Is Closing

Robert Hartman@@RobertHartman20Correspondent ISeptember 18, 2012

Will he rise to meet Jack's mark?
Will he rise to meet Jack's mark?Warren Little/Getty Images

It all started on his bedroom wall.  We now know it as the List.

We know that Tiger posted the major championship mark set by Jack Nicklaus somewhere on his bedroom wall, maybe near the mirror or the closet and it has smacked him in the face every waking day.

This year, many pundit's felt he would win at least one major, if not two.  

As the sun faded at Kiawah, so did his chances for at least seven more months. But, looking at his year, the 2012 campaign was hardly a disappointment for the Woods' camp.  He won Arnold's Tournament, Jack's Tournament and his own tournament (AT&T).  But, at this point in his career, does he measure his success by winning at the Memorial, or only by taking a step on the ladder to the host of the Memorial?

He is four rungs shy, and his body, which was once like a Navy Seals' (or at least his workout regimen was once that of a Navy Seals'), is now breaking down.

At the age of 36, Woods has gone four years (2008, the duel with Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines) without a major.  And, he's chasing a reason to put the improvement in his game into perspective.  

After he won the AT&T event at Congressional, the win put him at 74 PGA Tour wins for his career.  This staggering sum put him shy of just one player—Sam Snead.  Woods waxed eloquently about Snead at the Greenbrier Classic and his new position as runner-up to Slammin' Sammy.  

The notion that Woods is chasing Snead's mark would be out of character for Woods.  Sam Snead is not the rabbit on the dog track. Wood's does not covet Snead's mark.  

The Nicklaus barometer, the number 18—as in majors, not holes, is the real rabbit. 

The window is closing.  Why?

Have you peaked inside a gym at a recent PGA Tour stop?  Have you looked on the range at any PGA Tour event to find the swing coach, the sports psychologist and the caddie locked in strategic gazes?  That has all happened in the last 10-years since he created this arena.  

Tiger was fit, Tiger was about the right mental approach and Tiger was fist-pump-driven to bury his opponents with an 'A' game.  He was the veritable pied-piper of the PGA Tour. Yes, him, Tiger Woods

The reason the purses at the PGA Tour stops are 'dollar sign popping' is Woods.  He took a sport struggling after the drizzled Arnie and Jack era, slung it over his back and hiked up the hill.  And, as the endorsement rights, the television rights and every Tim Finchem negotiation ended with a slap of a back, it was really a golf clap for Woods.

Wait a second. 

You mean that every time we saw a commercial after Jim Nantz said "be back in a moment," that we can credit Woods?  Yes.  And, that green fairway has gotten the kind of green that was green before recycling and before we were scanning emails to save the trees.  The next generation—the ones in junior-golf when Tiger was in his prime, are now the ones—very fit and chasing Woods' soft spikes like footprints in the sand.

He changed swing coaches twice.  His agent left IMG to head out on his own.  He has played with the kinesiology of the golf swing so much, he is ranked behind Dr. James Andrews in Google hits when it comes to swing doctors.

And, he has failed to convert in the one area that was his 'milk and cookies'—inside 100 yards, where Woods was like a well-oiled machine.  

Not anymore.  

The sun is fading, more than at Kiawah, on a career that has been outstanding for the sport.  Maybe he has more tweaks in his bag to get ahead of the heel-chasers, because they have moved out of his rear view mirror and are in his blind-spot.  

And there is a young man from Northern Ireland on a Harley in his blind spot.