Blood in the Water: If Tiger Woods Struggles, These Three Might Take Advantage

Joe GerrityCorrespondent IDecember 2, 2009

Throughout Tiger Woods' career he has been mostly unstoppable, but there are a few times when he has shown weakness.

As it turns out, when Tiger's personal life is in shambles, his golf game follows.

On May 3, 2006, Woods' father, mentor, and inspiration, Earl, died after a lengthy battle with cancer.

Woods took a full nine-week hiatus from the PGA Tour to be with his family. When he returned for the 2006 U.S. Open, his game was just not there.

He missed the cut at Winged Foot, the first time he had missed the cut at a major as a professional, and ended his record-tying streak of 39 consecutive cuts made at majors.

After nine weeks off the golf course, Tiger still had his head wrapped around something in his personal life.

Now, with his world blowing up like it never has before, it will be interesting to see how long he waits to come back, and how well he plays when he does.

First off, he hasn't been on a golf course since the accident. It's unlikely that he will go out in public again until his car accident wounds are 100 percent healed, meaning that he is be facing an additional layoff following the break he is currently on.

It will have been over four months since Tiger's last tournament when and if he tees it up at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, a tournament he last won in 2000.

Also, at some point he is going to have to come out and say what has been going on. Thus far he's been letting out information at a snail's pace. If he doesn't want these questions following him onto the golf course, he is going to have to answer them now.

Unfortunately it seems that we have heard about all we are going to out of Tiger. Without admitting the affairs, he acknowledged that he had caused harm to his family and apologized.

The problem with that tiny admission is that people want more.

On the course Tiger has always been followed like royalty. Despite that, he has had relatively few problems with spectators talking or snapping pictures.

Sure, there have been a few incidents where his caddy may have gone a little overboard, but overall he hasn't had nearly as many problems as one might venture to guess given how many shots he has hit over the years.

The reason why is that most professional cameramen following Tiger are golf fans. They understand how the game works and respect the need for total silence and stillness while a player is hitting.

With TMZ and the National Enquirer in the mix, it's likely that we will see more incidents involving cameras going off during practice swings, at the top of his backswing, etc.

Tiger has had to deal with his fans not being golfers themselves (as most of the gallery at PGA tour events are), but when the cameramen start being unprofessional, it's likely we will see a whole new type of Tiger Woods explosion.

This is all going to be inside Tiger's head for the foreseeable future. His problems at home and with the media aren't just going to go away overnight.

It's because of this that I think Tiger will have his worst year in recent memory, opening up the door for these three guys.


The Youngster, Anthony Kim

Only 24 years old, Kim already has two PGA tour wins. He had a bit of a slump while altering his swing last year but still managed to finish 39th in total money.

Kim said that until about two years ago he would show up to tournaments half an hour before his tee time, mess around, and then go out to play.

After playing with and watching Tiger warm up, Kim immediately realized that in order to compete with Tiger he would have to take his game a lot more seriously.

He noticed how Tiger just walked by spectators as if he didn't see them. He noted that to warm up he systematically drained putts for a set amount of time. When hitting practice shots, Tiger took them as seriously as if he were on the 72nd hole of a major.

Kim took what he saw and applied it to his own game. Now after two years of serious work, he will see some real results.


The Veteran, Zach Johnson

At 33 years of age, Zach has steadily improved nearly every year on tour, leading up to his No. 4 ranking on the PGA Tour's money leaders last year after an off year in '08.

With a scoring average of 69.6 last year, Zach was fourth on tour, leading me to believe that he has what it takes to make the next step.

As of now he's only won six times on the PGA tour, but one of those was the Masters, proving he's capable of winning big.


The Rival, Phil Mickelson

Let's face it, Phil has been a bit of a disappointment. For Tiger's greatest rival, he sure has done anything but challenge Woods. Not anymore.

Phil has been the only golfer to note that has ever had a real confrontation with Tiger Woods come out in the media. Quite frankly, these two don't like each other.

Woods' caddy, Steve Williams, went so far as to remark, "I wouldn't call Mickelson a great player, 'cause I hate the [expletive]".

Now I'm not positive that this will happen, but if they are walking down the 18th fairway at Augusta this year, my money says that Phil starts making some comments under his breath in regards to Tiger's personal life.

In a dream world, it would lead to the first on-course fight in the history of the PGA tour.

So far it looks like we are in store for a thrilling 2010 year in golf.