wE have looked on in astonishment and, occasionally perhaps, maybe even sniggered at his remarkable decline. It has now gone way beyond joke material, though, to see Tiger Woods in such utter disarray.
Once so magical but now mystifying, there surely can’t be a single golf lover out there not finding it painful to witness one of the game’s greats struggling so badly, having now seen an 85 in the third round of The Memorial at Muirfield Village become his worst-ever score on the PGA Tour.
“He used to own this tournament,” reported Ron Green Jnr in this week’s Global Golf Post of a comment made by one spectator walking up the 18th hole on Saturday as Woods, a five-times winner, hacked his way to a quadruple-bogey eight. To which, another replied: “He used to own every tournament.”
Right now, Woods appears to have little or no chance of ever winning another tournament, far less add to his haul of 14 majors, the last of which will soon mark its seventh anniversary. The man who once struck fear into his rivals – every single one of them – is now no longer certain to be in their company for the duration of events.
He’s gone from making 142 consecutive cuts to scraping into the weekend by the skin of his teeth, then probably wishing he’d fallen the other side of the cut line because, quite frankly, it appears that Woods hasn’t got a clue at times what direction he’s going to spray his shots.
It was interesting to see Bob Harig, ESPN’s excellent golf correspondent and a man who tracks Tiger’s every movement like a bloodhound, note how the composed-looking Woods in last Wednesday’s pro-am wasn’t the same player who limped to the turn the following day in the heat of battle.
I say so because it was a similar story to when the former world No 1 – he’s now down to 181st in the global standings after starting the year 32nd – played in last year’s Dubai Desert Classic. In a practice round, he played within himself and was a joy to watch, as has been the case for the majority of a quite incredible career. Yet, 24 hours later, he was lunging at everything and the outcome of that wasn’t pretty.
Woods, of course, has fallen into the trap of getting involved with too many coaches and you’ve really got to wonder how much longer the latest one, Chris Como, will last. Surely, the player himself can see that if he just went out in a tournament and reined in the power a bit, then things would start to look considerably better than they do right now.
It’s impossible to see him being a contender in next week’s US Open at Chambers Bay. One bookmaker has him at 40-1 to win in Washington State and odds like that illustrate the depths he’s plunged.
Like almost everyone else, Woods will be taking a step into the dark as the season’s second major takes place on new territory, but it will be a different matter, of course, when he heads to St Andrews in just over a month’s time for the Open Championship.
Is there anywhere else – Augusta National perhaps – that can spark the sort of memories Woods badly needs just now to become a contender again?
He was magnificent around the Old Course when landing the first of three Claret Jugs in 2000, firing rounds of 67, 66, 67 and 69 and negotiating the test without visiting a single bunker – in winning by eight shots.
He led from start to finish five years later, when scores of 66, 67, 71 and 70 earned him a five-shot success in the game’s oldest major. Even tied for 23rd in 2010, when his worst score was 73, must seem encouraging compared to his current performance levels.
Unfortunately for golf, the Tiger Woods stepping on to stages these days isn’t the one who, according to one report on his victory 15 years ago: “Manoeuvred his way around the Old Course displaying both the power and finesse for which his game is so noted.”
Neither of those qualities are evident at the moment, but we should live in hope that the man we are witnessing in St Andrews in a few weeks’ time is more like the one we all remember than the poor soul currently lurching from one disaster to another.