Tiger Woods' letdown in the final round of the 2013 Open Championship puts him in grave danger of becoming everyone's new whipping boy.
Woods entered Sunday's fourth round trailing Lee Westwood by two shots at one under par. Can he finally overcome his demons and secure his first major since 2008? Is it time for Woods to press the resume button on his quest to top Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 majors?
Nope. Woods finished in a tie for sixth place at two-over after faltering in the final round. His struggles were heightened by bumbling an easy putt that a golfer of Woods' caliber will sink 99 times out of 100.
What is your current perception of Tiger Woods after falling short in the 2013 British Open?
Of course, Woods' 14 majors won't (or shouldn't) allow him to plummet from the pinnacle of golf's greats. He should still go down as one of the greats of all time, even if he fails to capture another major.
Then again, the nature of sports culture favors those who last succeeded rather than those who have succeeded the most. In a society of over-reactors, some people are bound to forget how amazing Woods was once and still is. Instead, all the focus will be on his recent blunders at majors.
It's already beginning, as human troll/ESPN First Take talking head Skip Bayless did not miss the opportunity for a good bashing.
Tiger's confidence in majors is shot and the pressure to win No. 15 just keeps building. Phil beat him by 8 on Sunday.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) July 21, 2013
There's more, of course, as Bayless goes on to make up genes without any knowledge of biology.
Tiger Woods has never had the come-from-behind gene. Such a weird weakness for a once-dominant player.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) July 21, 2013
Essentially, LeBron James finally made his whining of the same exact arguments moot by winning two championships, so Bayless needs somebody else to pick on.
Just as Bayless turned people who didn't know better against the NBA's best player, he now looks poised to lead the same renegade against Woods. Since ESPN picks one topic and spreads that discussion out over the entire day, Woods' loss will become as big of (if not bigger) a story as Phil Mickelson's victory.
So since "pressure" isn't an actual statistic, what is Bayless actually referring to? Lately Woods has started strong and ended poorly at majors, as explained by ESPN's Stats & Info.
Tiger Woods: +23 in rounds 3 & 4 over last 6 majors (-11 rounds 1 & 2)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 21, 2013
That easily feeds into the convenient narrative of Woods not handling the clutch, even if the discrepancy just represents pure happenstance. He's now in jeopardy of joining James, Peyton Manning and Alex Rodriguez among the clique of superstars who have dealt with the tired "He's not a winner" backlash (even though all of them have won).
So what happens now? Does his legacy fade away until he finally stops the bleeding and wins a major? Or will fans instead latch onto Woods, who no longer represents the bad guy now that he is struggling to win majors? We do love beleaguered anti-heroes struggling to climb to the top, right Wright Thompson?
I find @TigerWoods much more interesting as he grinds toward something just out of reach than when he got everything he wanted— Wright Thompson (@wrightthompson) July 21, 2013
And then again, writing about all of this just makes the discussion more pertinent, and I could just be giving the general public no credit. In that case, oops.