These remain curious times for the guy trying to show he can still dominate golf as he once did. In his past four tournaments, Woods walked off the course in the middle of the final round at Doral with tightness in his left Achilles tendon, won by five shots at Bay Hill for his first PGA Tour title in 30 months, was an also-ran at the Masters Tournament with his worst performance as a pro and missed the cut at Quail Hollow for only the eighth time in his career.
In the absence of trophies, there is no shortage of opinions.
Peter Alliss, the player-turned-broadcaster, said before his induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame that Woods is “gone at the moment.” Nick Faldo, a six-time major champion who works for CBS Sports and Golf Channel, said Woods no longer has the self-belief that made him No. 1 for all those years. Brandel Chamblee, a journeyman on the PGA Tour and now an analyst for Golf Channel, said Woods should fire Sean Foley and call his old coach, Butch Harmon.
“And I know he’ll never do that because he’s letting his ego get in the way of common sense,” Chamblee said on a conference call for The Players Championship, which starts Thursday. “He wants to prove to people he’s right. He would rather prove to people he’s right than be right.”
Woods has been down this road, though not with so many detours.
“Guys, I’ve done this before,” Woods said. “I’ve been through this. Actually, a lot of you guys lived it with me, went through those periods where I wasn’t quite where I wanted to be. I had some pretty good runs after that, and this is no different. It takes a little bit of a time, and I keep building and things eventually come around to where they feel natural and efficient.
“I think that’s probably the most important word, is that you get out there and you feel efficient in what you’re doing.”
Woods shot back with subtlety at the TV analysts.
“I can understand that everyone has an opinion, and he’s entitled to his. But he’s no longer playing anymore, so, so be it,” Woods said of Chamblee, who won once in 380 starts in his PGA Tour career.
As for Faldo’s comments on his self-belief?
“I always find it interesting since they’re not in my head,” Woods said. “They must have some kind of superpower I don’t know about.”
If he is looking for good vibes to turn his fortunes, the TPC Sawgrass might not be the best place.
No other course on his regular schedule has given him more fits. Sure, Woods won in 2001 with that “better than most” 60-foot birdie putt on the island-green 17th in the third round, and he was
runner-up to Hal Sutton in 2000. But he has had only two other finishes in the top 10 at The Players, and the past two years were particularly troubling.
In 2010, returning to the scene where he made his first public appearance since
the scandal in his personal life, he withdrew halfway through the final round with what turned out to be a minor neck injury. Last year, he withdrew after nine holes and 42 on his card with injuries to his left leg, which kept him out for the next three months.
“I had a few issues going on physically there,” Woods said. “I was wondering whether I should have played, and because this is a big event, I tried to tee it up and it didn’t work out.”