Maybe it was all just an anomaly.
He won 17 times in those two years - 19 if you count the worldwide wins - and four majors. Thats an unbelievable accomplishment. We (Im counting myself here, too) looked at those two years and extrapolated it out for the rest of his career Nicklaus major record would surely fall; so would Sneads all-time win mark. Tiger was still young, his prime years were still far in the future, and he was mowing them down at roughly one win every two tournaments.
So what happened? Tigers last three years have been great by modern-golfer standards ' 16 wins, roughly a 1-to-3.5 win ratio. But they havent been the once-in-history type statistics that we had come to assume they would be. He may yet challenge Nicklaus and Snead, but its going to be considerably more difficult at this pace.
There have been any number of amateurs such as myself giving any number of reasons: the decision to stop seeing Butch Harmon; his relationship with girlfriend-fiancee; his friendship with Mark OMeara; a supposed stubbornness which manifests itself in a do-it-my-way attitude.
Neither I nor anyone else can speak definitely to the reasons ' if there has to be a reason. Here, though, for the record is what the man himself has had to say in chats with the media this year:
MERCEDES CHAMPIONSHIPS ' You know, people don't realize how many lucky breaks I was getting (in 99 and 2000.) I hit so many bad shots that turned out great. I can tell you, there were three shots I hit at St. Andrews (in the British Open) that should have been in the bunkers. Either bounced out, got a good kick off the knob, went around the bunker. Firestone (NEC), when I played well (a 61 on Friday in 2000), I hit a couple balls in the trees, (they) kicked back out into the fairway, made birdies on both of them. Good things were happening. I was just taking advantage of absolutely every single opportunity.
The problem isnt Harmon or OMeara or his fiance, he insists. As much as anything, it was the painful knee injury that he had surgically corrected at the end of 2002.
MERCEDES (CON'T) ' The more the knee hurt (in 2002), the more I'd have to make alterations in the swing to try and basically make solid contact. The more alterations I made, the more distance I lost, because I was actually moving away from the ball a lot, slowing down, trying not to make it hurt. I definitely had to work on it to try to get out of it. Then the problem was that I had limited (practices) for about four or five months after I came back, started playing. I really couldn't work out there for hours upon hours on my game to try and eliminate the flaws. I had to spend less time and be more focused on what I was doing, try and get out of it that way.
If you take his word as gospel, he is on the verge of breaking out to another year like 2000-2001:
MASTERS TOURNAMENT - As I say, I'm pretty close. I didn't make any putts this week, at all. Any putt that I had within 10 feet for birdie, I didn't make them, and you have to make those. I'm hitting well on the golf course. I just hit a couple bad shots on this golf course. I didn't mean to do that.
PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP ' I didn't think I played that poorly. I made nothing starting out. I put myself in position to make putts and I made nothing, and then towards the end I made a few putts to keep me where I'm at right now. I'm hitting quality golf shots and then I'm either not converting the putts when I'm hitting them close to get some kind of possible momentum, or when I hit a poor shot, it just seems to be in a position where it's very difficult to make par.
BAY HILL INVITATIONAL' The things I'm working on are starting to come together. I get up there and I hit shots like I did most of this week off the tees - the problem, as I said yesterday, my bad shots, I'm making bogeys, double; I'm in water or out-of-bounds or something like that, unplayable shots. If I can get my misses a little bit more under control, then I should be all right.
DUBAI DESERT CLASSIC' Just trying to get my consistency right day in and day out, trying to get the club in the right position day in and day out so that a bad round is not over par. So that is when you struggle and havent played your best but you shoot 69, and then when you do play well you shoot that low score. Its not about how good the good days are ' everyone out here can shoot low numbers - its how bad your bad days.
ACCENTURE MATCH PLAY - I know what I'm doing. It's a matter of stopping it. I can do it on the range pretty good. It's with irons, too. It's with all clubs. If I get the club down in front of me, I get stuck. My hips outrace my arms and the club gets behind me. It's not that my arms drop behind me, it's that my body outraces my arms. If I can slow my body down and get my arms down faster, I can hit the ball decent.
And at the end of last year
FUNAI CLASSIC 03 ' This year has been one of those years where I have won one-third of my tournaments. People say I have had a terrible year I still don't understand why people look at it that way. Granted I didn't win a major championship this year, that's disappointing. I tried. I had my chances.
He certainly didnt have a terrible year. This year has certainly not been a terrible year ' not if you are talking about an Ernie Els or a Vijay Singh or a Davis Love.
It hasnt been Tiger 2000, however. But maybe that guy is long gone. Maybe we were just dreaming when we believed he could keep it up for 15 more years. Did we assume too much? It appears so. Tiger, after all, may simply be Tiger ' and not some sort of golf god.
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