- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 17, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The media chapter of the Tiger Woods fan club met on Monday at Congressional Country Club to promote the upcoming Quicken Loans National, which takes place next month.

There was a lot of sympathy for the burdens that Woods has had to carry with him — you know, not being able to play golf professionally and all.

“Tiger, with everything you’ve been through, and you mentioned the health and all that, a lot of fans are wondering, ‘Can you regain your prior form?’” one reporter said, speaking for the fans or perhaps referring to themselves in the third person as “a lot of fans.”

The question was, “How much longer do you expect to play? And is Jack’s record still in sight? I know it was once a goal of yours, and with everything that you’ve been through now, is it still a goal of yours and reasonable?”

None of these “fans” are doing Woods any good by asking questions like these.

“We’re glad the reports of your demise are greatly exaggerated,” another reporter asked, apparently relieved that what we have seen nearly every time Woods has stepped on a golf course in a PGA Tour event in recent memory has been exaggerated.

The torch that the media fanboys have carried around for the 40-year-old Woods still burns, despite not playing since August because of health problems and not winning a tournament since 2013. They still ask about Nicklaus and his record of 18 major victories, despite the fact that Woods hasn’t won a major since 2008.

Those questions enable Woods, with 14 majors, to keep the delusion alive.

“I think his major championship record is certainly still attainable,” Woods told reporters. “I got him on the regular wins already, but the major one, yeah, that’s certainly up there.”

For Woods, who carries the burden of making more money than anyone who has ever stepped on a golf course professionally, it’s not about money — it seems to be about legacy. He spoke of Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour victories. Woods is three behind with 79.

“It would be nice to end up at No. 1 on both lists,” Woods said. “That’s a long way away and it’s going to take time to get to that point, but hopefully, I can get back out here and play to that level.”

Well, since the reports of his demise have been “greatly exaggerated,” Woods should be able to get back and play at that level.

And reports like this one, from the British newspaper, The Telegraph, from Woods’ 2013 performance at the British Open, must have been greatly exaggerated as well:

“It was a depressingly familiar Woods, though. You could have compiled a highlight reel of his bad shots yesterday.”

Depressingly familiar. Since the driveway car crash and 9-iron attack by his then-wife, Elin, in November 2009, that has been Woods’ career — depressingly familiar.

There was the one year, 2013, in which Woods won five of the 16 tournaments he played in. None of them got him closer to Nicklaus, and since then, it has been a struggle at times to make the cut.

What would be an exaggeration is suggesting a broken-down Woods — who has also not won a major since his Dr. Feelgood, Anthony Galea, was taken out of circulation, charged by federal authorities with drug smuggling, conspiring to lie to federal agents, unlawful possession with intent to distribute and practicing medicine without a license — should still be shooting for Nicklaus’ record.

If he cares about his legacy, Woods would have been better off being a shooting star — a la Sandy Koufax, who dominated his sport over a period of time and then flamed out.

Koufax won just 165 games, but for five years he was a rocket, dominating baseball, with four no-hitters and a perfect game. He retired at 30 because of arthritis in his left elbow, but even today he is in the conversation among the greatest pitchers of all time. He left the game a legend.

Woods would have only grown in stature if he had a similar exit. Years from now, they would have spoken of talent robbed, instead of talent diminished in one failed comeback after another.

I understand golf is not baseball. If you are a pro golfer, you can play competitively until you are fat and 50. If Woods just wants to play with the boys, then fine, but the fan club expects more and will keep asking it of him until he can no longer fool himself or anyone else.


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