Woods Past His Prime

By Brian HewittFebruary 19, 2008, 5:00 pm
2007- WGC-AccentureMARANA, Ariz. -- Tiger Woods is over the hill.
His best golf is behind him.
And this isnt just my opinion.
Woods himself admitted Tuesday in Arizona that he is yesterdays news.
Ive had one perfect season, he said on the eve of the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship that begins Wednesday near Tucson.
When was that, somebody wanted to know?
When I was 11, said the No. 1 ranked player in the world. I won 36 tournaments that year.I peaked at 11.
Are you serious, somebody asked?
Uh-huh, Woods deadpanned.
This, of course, was tongue-in-cheekery of the highest order. But it was Woods having fun; Woods being relaxed; and Woods giving a rare glimpse back at a simpler time in his life. So it was different. And that made it interesting.
Southern Cal is unbelievable, the junior golf tournaments they have there, said Woods, who grew up in Orange County south and east of Los Angeles. We play probably, Id have to say, four to five tournaments per week that they were somewhere in Southern California, every day during the summer. The only ones we dont play are the weekends.
Woods was rolling, and almost in a reverie. He was talking in the present tense about golf that took place 20 years ago.
But its all throughout, he continued. I feel, I was very lucky to have my mom there because she was incredible. Wed drive out to Redlands or San Bernardino, and 11 years old always teed off first on the back nine. Youre looking an hour-and-a-half, two hour drive because we teed off at 7, getting up at 4 to get out there just to watch nine holes. My mom was incredible that way. She kept score and still has a lot of scorecards from there.
Meanwhile the boy named Tiger grew up to be a man named Tiger who hits drives that seem to stay in the air an hour and a half or two. The legend grows by the day. Before he turns 40 the financial experts say Woods will become the first billion dollar earning athlete in the history of sports.
I like the movie Hoosiers a lot, said J.B. Holmes, the sacrificial lamb . . . er . . . player who will face Tiger in the first round of an event Woods has already won twice. In other words, Holmes was telling us, he considers himself an underdog.
Which, of course, was something we already knew.
What we didnt know until Tuesday was that Tiger used to have to start off the 10th tee. In the first group. On a regular basis.
Before Woods left the press room Tuesday it got more predictable. He got his game face back on and said all the regular things.
The greens are actually perfect, he said.
Its match play, he added. All you have to do is beat one guy.
Its not a marathon, he said. Its a sprint.
These were all things weve heard from Woods on more than one occasion. And the temptation is to criticize and observe that there is nothing new under the sun when it comes to pronouncements from Tiger.
But for a few brief minutes Tuesday it was refreshing to look through a window into Woods golfing childhood.
It was also scary. He has played a lot of golf in his life; made a lot of swings; hit a lot of balls. One of the things that was obvious through his words Tuesday and the excitement of the memory of events 20 years ago is this:
Tiger Woods will not be burning out any time soon.
Tiger Woods is nowhere near over the hill.
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