Scott Michaux

Sports columnist for The Augusta Chronicle. | ScottMichaux.com

Struggling Tiger back to basics

Struggling Tiger back to basics

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HAVEN, Wis. --- It's a confusing time in the world of Tiger Woods, who comes to the PGA Championship fresh off the worst performance of his professional career.

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Tiger Woods will go into the final major of the season at Whistling Straits as an underdog for one of the few times in his career.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Tiger Woods will go into the final major of the season at Whistling Straits as an underdog for one of the few times in his career.

He comes in as NOT the betting favorite for the first time since the 1997 Masters Tournament.

He comes in working on fundamentals with his caddie holding a club to his head and swing coaches auditioning for a place in his entourage.

He comes to the PGA without a victory all season for the first time in his career and perilously close to losing his stranglehold on the No. 1 ranking.

He comes in with one final shot at avoiding the need for a captain's pick to participate in the Ryder Cup.

Strangest of all, Woods comes to Whistling Straits and actually was asked a question about being "one of the worst players on the planet."

The only person who didn't seem surprised by all this is Woods.

"To be honest with you, I thought I would have been here a little bit sooner, with all that's going on," said Woods, clarifying that here meant something akin to rock bottom. "But somehow I've been able to play a little bit better than I thought for a stretch, and then it finally caught up with me last week."

Last week, on a course Woods historically plays better than just about anywhere else in the world, Woods shot 18-over par to finish one spot out of dead last in the field. Before that, he refused to elaborate on whether he'd be agreeable to accepting a wild-card invitation from captain Corey Pavin to play in the Ryder Cup in October in Wales.

A week later, Woods was clearer about things.

"Yes," he said of his willingness to accept a captain's pick if offered, adding that he hasn't spoken with Pavin about it. "Hopefully I won't be a pick. I would like to be able to play myself on to that team."

He also admitted that he is going through a crisis of confidence at the moment as he tries to sort out the wreckage of his family and the mess of his golf game.

"I've been through periods when I've hit it bad," he said. "And, yeah, is your confidence not where it needs to be? Of course. I've been there. We have all been there. But the whole idea is to keep making progress each and every day. And that's one of the things I am excited about the last few days is I made some good progress."

This confidence lapse is different than in 2006 when Woods briefly struggled after the death of his father.

"What's been apparent in my life right now versus when my dad died -- two totally different deals," he said. "I really took solace in going out on to the golf course after my dad passed, because it brought back so many great memories of us growing up and practicing and training and competing and giving each other the needle.

''Here it's been different. Every time I come out here, it's been a little bit more difficult. Off the golf course, it's been a lot more difficult. A lot of things have gone on, but in both instances it's about attaining balance and finding an equilibrium, and that's certainly something that I've been trying to do."

Last week at Firestone was so abysmal that it made people wonder whether Woods would ever regain his former glory. Was he hurt by the performance?

"Hurt is definitely the wrong word there," he said. "Frustrated, yes. Certainly frustrated in the way I hit the ball, the way I putted. I didn't do a whole lot positively around the golf course. Unfortunately I couldn't put together any rounds. But I've done some good work the last two days, and I've still got one more day of some work and hopefully I'll be ready come Thursday."

Woods has been working with his caddie, Steve Williams. But he also was seen getting videotaped by swing instructor Sean Foley. Woods has yet to commit to a more formal relationship with any swing coaches since being dropped by Hank Haney in May.

"Certainly it's a possibility, no doubt," he said of Foley coming aboard Team Tiger. "But there also is a lot of other coaches out there that's a possibility, as well, that I've talked to. I wanted to have him take a look at it today on video and so I can take a look at it and that's what we did."

Woods said his personal life is approaching "normalization." He still has not publicly confirmed reports that his divorce is imminent.

"Well, I think in life you just have to keep moving forward, and that's what I'm doing now," he said. "Life is certainly getting a lot better."

What constitutes "better" and "normal?"

"Well, I don't have paparazzi camped out in front of the house, hotel, helicopters flying over the range," he said. "At the time, that was happening every day. They were following my kids everywhere they went. Taking photographs of everything they were doing. That was very tough. But that hasn't been the case of late. As I said, to me, that's a sign that it's headed towards normalizing."

In his crazy, messed-up world, the one thing that remains the same is his outlook toward a major championship.

"I'm trying to win a golf tournament just like everybody else here, and I'm going to give it everything I have," he said.

Who is in contention to be No. 1?

Phil mickelson isn't the only player capable of replacing Tiger Woods at no. 1.

TIGER WOODS

For the second consecutive week, Woods is looking over his shoulder at two players who can end his record 270-week reign. His top spot depends on how he and two other players -- Mickelson and Steve Stricker -- play this week in the PGA Championship.

PHIL MICKELSON

Lefty would reach No. 1 with five scenarios: a win in the PGA Championship; runner-up with Woods out of the top three; third-place with Woods out of the top 11; fourth-place with Woods outside the top 46; a two-way tie for fourth with Woods missing the cut.

STEVE STRICKER

Stricker has a tougher time. He could go to No. 1 only by winning the PGA Championship, provided Woods finishes out of the top 24 and Mickelson is out of the top three.


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