Here We Go Again

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OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. -- Tiger Woods is not in a slump unless you insist on holding him to a higher standard - which is something he does to himself every day. But if he fails to win the 103rd U.S. Open which begins Thursday at historic and leafy Olympia Fields Country Club near Chicago, a lot of people who should know better will begin whispering that he is in a slump.
 
They will point out that it will mark the fourth straight major championship in which Woods has failed to emerge victorious. And they will, of course, be terribly and unfairly wrong. Woods is still the No. 1-ranked player in the world. He still has the lowest scoring average on the PGA Tour this year and has won three times in 2003, despite playing a limited schedule crafted in part to protect a recovery from minor knee surgery.
 
Some slump.
 
But the irony here is that Woods may, in his mind of minds and heart of hearts, consider this to be a slump if he doesn't win his second consecutive U.S. Open. And that is because he demands more from himself than anybody else in the game today with the possible exception of Annika Sorenstam on the women's side.
 
Just don't expect Woods to cop to being in a slump. Asked Tuesday at Olympia Fields if he was in a slump, Woods, said, 'No.'
 
Asked to elaborate, he said, 'I don't think I've ever been in a slump. I think my over-all career has been pretty good. Ever since I came out of the womb and started playing golf, I've had a pretty good career.'
 
Ya' think?
 
Actually if you wanted to be hypercritical, you could carve Tiger up for speaking of his whole life in the context of a 'career' rather than speaking of his whole life in the context of a 'life.'
 
But I won't do that. Tiger is driven. He is doing what he loves for a living. And let's just leave it at that for now.
 
A slump, by the way, is what David Duval is in. The former world No. 1 has missed nine cuts in his last 13 starts. He fired an out-of-nowhere 62 last week in the second round in Maryland and there is hope that he may be breaking out of his vicious tailspin. But the U.S. Open is not usually the place to come to start shooting confidence-building numbers.
 
Speaking of 'careers,' Phil Mickelson is in an oh-for-his-career slump in major championships. He had people scratching their heads Tuesday at Olympia Fields when he started talking about taking more chances this week. Almost everybody took him seriously. I suspect he may have been trying to put us all on.
 
If that's the case, the joke will be on Phil if he doesn't win this U.S. Open. He will be forced to wake up Monday morning, his 33rd birthday, still majorless. Actually, I'm hunching that Mickelson might win this week because everything is pointing in the other direction.
 
But I digress.
 
The subject was Tiger Woods, the allegation that he is in a slump. Please don't come to me with that suggestion for at least five more years.
 
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