A lot of people believe so. They, though, are not the ones who count. The ones who count say they recognize Tiger as a great player. They, the players, say they realize he is better than anyone else. But very few admit to being intimidated on the golf course.
If intimidation means one player causes everyone else to shy away in fear, then intimidation is the wrong word. No player is fearful of Woods. He isnt going to strike anybody. No one is going to come away with a black eye. Not even an enraged Tiger would do that.
But Woods definitely can play mental tricks on you. No one seems to play very well the final day when hes out in front. The reason isnt fear. The reason is that when you are coming down the stretch against Tiger Woods, youd better hit every shot in the screws. And every shot had better be dead center on the drives and within 20 feet of the flag on the approaches. That is the perception.
The reality is that that is awfully difficult to do. Players finally buckle under that strain. And the effect is multiplied when you are coming down the stretch against Tiger. One bad shot means all the rest better be doubly perfect. And that is hard ' no, make that nearly impossible ' to do.
Its mental, of course, but it stems from something that is real. If you dont play very nearly perfect golf, you lose. But trying to play perfect golf is a recipe for disaster.
As a player, I think you come to the realization that you have to play very nearly mistake-free ' and expect to be battling with HIM come Sunday, said David Duval.
But its just a disaster waiting to happen. If you try things you normally might not try and hit some shots that you just deep down know you cant hit, then thats just a stupid way to play the game.
The mental part, though, is very strong. Woods knows it, and so do the players.
Thats what Tiger has been doing, says Davis Love. Hes been winning the mental battle and making more putts and he keeps coming out of top.
Mickelson makes it sound like keeps coming out on top is just a matter of fate. So far, hes kept the competitive spirit by thinking that way. Some people, however, just cant lie to themselves. Ernie Els knows that Woods is superhuman. He knows, though, that he has to find some way to stop even the superhuman.
I definitely cant help that the guy is that good, said Els. That is just the fact of the matter. Saying that, Ive got to believe that Ive got a good chance of playing well and winning this week, and thats what Ive got to believe. But were competing against a guy thats dominating a sport, unlike anybody else.
The way to overcome Tiger, says Sergio Garcia, is to be perfect. And if not, congratulate him.
Of course, the answer would be to block him out, just pretend hes X, dont even concern yourself with him. Pretend he isnt even here. Of course, thats also a very good way to beat everyone in the field EXCEPT Tiger Woods.
You cant play mistake-free golf, Love said flatly.
Neither can Tiger, for that matter. But he just doesnt make many. Els knows that all too well.
Even Tiger is making mistakes in major championships, said Els. I dont see him making a lot of mistakes in the regular Tour events. Especially this week.
But what he does better than the rest of us is he misses it on the right side. Where we might go out and try to push the round, we try to go at a flag you shouldnt go at and miss it on the wrong side and end up with a double (bogey) ' or worse.
Thats why Tiger is beating us. He misses it in a spot where he can get up-and-down.
Tiger? Well, he agrees.
I think its just understanding that you need to put the ball in certain places, and go ahead and put it there, he said. And theres really no trick to it. I feel like Im one of those players that can actually move the ball both ways. I may not be as proficient as I want to be sometimes, but at least I feel like I can do that.
Not a word about intimidation. But Tiger beats them. Or ' they beat themselves when Mr. Woods is in the field.