Tiger Still Short of Putting it All Together


One week into the 2005 season, one fact was painfully clear: Tiger Woods may have completed his swing change ' but the landscape of golf is far different than it was in 1999, 2000 and 2001 when he won almost everything he entered.
Vijay Singh still is the best player in golf. He very likely would have won the Mercedes Championships had it not been for one bad swing, the drive on No. 13 Sunday which led to a triple bogey. Replace that one bad swing with a mediocre drive at best and we might be talking today of another big win for the tall one.
Woods? He struck the ball very well. But he couldnt shake in a putt. And if you cant putt it, you cant win it. He himself is very realisitic about just where he is at this stage of his 'comeback.' But perhaps we need to remind those who assume he is automatically going to revert to the old Tiger.
Just like so many times the last couple of years, he was reduced to bemoaning his luck in another one that might have been.
(Im) very excited the way I ended last year, and, you know, basically, I've been playing like this at home. I've been making more putts than this, but I've been playing just like this at home, said Tiger.
And have we heard almost those exact words before? Yes, we have.
So, I just tried to make my - make it feel like it's just a continuation of that, and I didn't feel like the year changed. This is one continuation from last year, and I really hit it well this week, he said.
You know, there may never have been a golfer in history who had the eternal optimism of Tiger Woods. The man is not going to talk himself into a bad day. He may have been in a sl-sl-sl ' er, a down period. He may realize full well he is in a down period. But dont ever expect him to admit it ' until he confesses to the fact some time afterwards.
Yes, he struck the ball beautifully last week. That is half the equation. But until he curls the ball into the cup and marks down 3 on his card on the par-4s, he still has gotten the job only half done.
Singh still is a torrid golfer, one year after the big win breakout. He seemed to make just about every putt when he had to.. So, incidentally, did the winner, Stuart Appleby. And so did Ernie Els.
Tiger didnt. It must be noted that Woods never said he would win nine times again. He did say that he expects much improvement. And wins in Japan and at his own tournament in the off-season certainly indicated that he has turned the corner in his improvement.
His success in striking the ball at the Mercedes was another prime indication. But early returns are that not that much has changed. He was regularly in the hunt in the third and fourth rounds in the second half of last season, barely missing time and time again to bring home the winners hardware. And after the first tournament of 2005, it was more of the same.
The thing is, Tiger could return to the brilliance of those glory years and be nowhere as successful. Singh is much better than he was three years ago, and probably Els, too. And if this tournament was any indication, some other names may be joining those two ' Appleby among them. And Phil Mickelson didnt even play.
Woods once again will play only in the top tournaments, when all the rest of the big boys will be teeing it up. The killer schedule will probably mean that those nine-win seasons are a thing of the past.
And Singh will probably play 25-28 tournaments, meaning he will contest the same events that Tiger plays, but in addition eight or 10 others. And, as last year, he will probably win three or four of those. Nine wins does not seem so far-fetched for Vijay Singh.
You know, you can't win them all, so next week is another week, was Singhs assessment of the proceedings.
Hes in a much better position to win nine again than is Woods. A solid year for Tiger would seem to be five wins. The schedule he plays is much too severe to think about nine again.
Email your thoughts to George White