Tiger Green Berets Side-by-Side

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PGA Tour (75x100)Tiger Woods is deep inside Fort Bragg this week, wearing a camouflage uniform and doing the kind of things Green Berets do. The cover story is that he flew down on his private jet to see what military life is all about.
 
The real truth is, Tiger's on a secret mission. Somewhere in the woods in North Carolina, he and the Special Forces are out trying to find his golf game.
 
Tiger WoodsAs good as the Green Berets are, it won't be easy.
 
It doesn't help that Woods won't even admit it's missing.
 
Another in a string of disappointing majors ended early on Sunday for Woods, long before the cheers echoed from Amen Corner as Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els put on the kind of spectacular back-nine show that once belonged only to Woods.
 
If you're counting - and in golf that's usually a good way to keep score - Woods is now winless in seven straight majors. Worse yet, he hasn't even been a factor in the final round of five of them.
 
He's got a long way to go to rival Mickelson's oh-for-42 streak in the majors, but the tournaments are beginning to add up.
 
So, too, are the questions.
 
The player who once intimidated his fellow competitors simply by showing up on the first tee seems gone, replaced by a befuddled twin who goes about his work with an exasperated look on his face as putts race past the hole and drives go increasingly awry.
 
There are whispers about flaws in his swing, his conviction to golf, and his once all-consuming desire to win.
 
Things have gotten so bad that Woods vomited after the first hole Sunday, though he later claimed it was because of a bad sandwich, not a bad putt.
 
Through it all, Woods keeps repeating the same mantra to inquiring writers, as if he needs to believe it himself.
 
The numbers may say otherwise, but Woods insists he's not in a slump.
 
'It's different for me versus any other player,' he said last week. 'Some other player has a bad week, misses the cut, it's no big deal, slips through the radar. Whereas if I shoot one bad round, it's a little bit different. I think it's just expectation levels.'
 
Perhaps it is. Golf fans were easily spoiled by Woods, who carries the burden of having to compete against his own past success.
 
Woods will likely never win four straight majors again, and may never match a record he once seemed destined to smash - Jack Nicklaus' 18 major championship wins.
 
He's got three green jackets from Augusta National, but the 10 that Nicklaus once predicted of him?
 
No way.
 
It's not because the other players are becoming more like Woods, but because he is becoming more like them. The gap has closed, but it took Woods coming back to the field to do it.
 
Woods is still the greatest player of his time, but all of a sudden it's not automatic that he'll be the best player ever as most assumed when he won seven of 11 major championships and 23 of 59 tournaments during a three-year stretch on the PGA Tour.
 
Woods remains in denial, insisting after almost every round that if a few putts just go his way he'll be just fine. Others wonder why he remains so stubborn about solving his own swing problems rather than reconciling with his former instructor Butch Harmon.
 
'Tiger is his own man. He knows what he wants to do,' Harmon said earlier this year. 'He knows that if he wanted my help, I'd always give it to him. He's smart enough to figure it out. He knows exactly what he's doing. He's just in a little bit of a down period.'
 
Woods might be right, up to a point. When he was winning every tournament he entered, it seemed as if there wasn't a 10-footer he didn't make.
 
But now he also makes big numbers a routine part of every round, which was never the case a few years ago. At the Masters, he actually hit more greens and fairways than runner-up Els, yet finished 10 strokes behind him.
 
The difference was that Els made two eagles and no double bogeys, while Woods didn't have an eagle and made three doubles.
 
'It's not like I'm not trying out there,' Woods said.
 
Woods might be encouraged to know that Nicklaus was in a strikingly similar slump about the same time in his career.
 
After winning the 1967 U.S. Open, Nicklaus went 0-for-12 in the majors before he won the 1970 British Open at St. Andrews. If Woods, whose streak began after he won the 2002 U.S. Open, were to go winless for the same period, his streak would end at the 2005 British Open - at St. Andrews.
 
Woods, of course, hopes it ends much sooner than that. He may not win too many more majors in runaways, but he has far too much talent not to win a bunch more.
 
For now, though, players are happy not to see him lurking around in the final round. That includes Mickelson, who was asked after the third round how it felt not to see Woods on the leaderboard.
 
'Well, it doesn't suck, I'll say that,' Mickelson said.
 
While Mickelson takes a victory tour in his green jacket this week, Woods will be behind the gates of Fort Bragg getting an introduction to military life.
 
It may not be a wasted week, even with a 7-iron nowhere in sight.
 
If Woods can't always beat Mickelson and the others anymore, at least he'll be able to outmarch them.