The ghost of Tiger Woods’ former self continues to loom large, scaring everyone in its wake.
– #Quiz360: WIN dinner for 2 at Towers Rotana, Dubai
While the good and the great of the NFL convened in Phoenix for the Super Bowl, 30 minutes away a horribly dispiriting narrative was continuing to alarm and shock in equal measure.
I’ve always dreamed of playing golf like Tiger Woods, and I did this morning. #notagoodthing
— Bert Brantley (@bertbrantley) January 31, 2015
How the Arizona tourist board would have loved Woods to light up the state with a barnstorming, ‘I am back’ kind of performance before the eyes of the world tuned in to watch the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks go head-to-head.
For Woods, though, that is a pipedream of the wildest variety. His opening day 73 was promptly followed by a career worst 82 on Friday.
Out of 132 players, no one was below him. He headed home to practice, snubbing the Super Bowl in the process. His pride has been battered like never before.
It ensured the Waste Management Phoenix Open could go down in history as the most aptly-named tournament in history: One where arguably the greatest golfer ever is wasting away before our very eyes.
His atrocious performance – one US commentator labelled it “the most shocking round I have ever seen him play” – was one shot worse than the 81 of the British Open in 2002. For the record, it was hurricane conditions that day.
This time, there was rain yet in truth, the only thing blowing Woods off course was himself. Sadly, his demise is as fascinating as his route to greatness.
Those who had seen him in Phoenix 14 years ago witnessed a totally different beast. He was world No1, the most feared player on the planet, arguably the most celebrated sportsman of all time.
You would have been locked up for predicting what would happen next. The women. The public divorce. The global shaming. The quite incredible fall from grace.
A personal life as shambolic as his short game. A remodelled swing which has left him resembling a Sunday morning hacker.
Injuries, most notably a back problem, have played their part. But every time we hear how his ailments are no longer a factor, there is horrific evidence on display to suggest otherwise.
“He whipped the field playing lousy.” –Tom Lehman, 10 years ago at Torrey, after Tiger Woods’ first full-field stroke-play win since 2003.
— Mike O’Malley (@GD_MikeO) February 2, 2015
Woods moped around the desert as the world No 47. His last major came eight years ago. At this rate it will be his last. This week he will fall out of the top 50.
Perhaps the worst, most chilling statistic of all is that it has been two years since he completed a tournament under par – the 2013 BMW Classic.
“This is my second tournament in six months, so I just need tournament rounds like this where I can fight through it, turn it around, grind through it and make adjustments on the fly,” Woods said.
It was the first time in his career that he shot over par in his first round of the year. That was followed up with the worst of his 1,109 outings as a professional.
“We all have days like this.
Unfortunately, mine was in a public forum. We take the good with the bad,” he admitted.
It was painful to watch him trudge round Scottsdale – certainly as alarming as having his front-teeth knocked out by a cameraman before the competition began, another bizarre moment in his distressing disintegration.
He spoke afterwards of not being mentally right until the 12th hole. In his blistering pomp, Woods would stride out to the tee and have the whole field quaking before a ball was struck. Now he needs to get over half-way round the course before feeling in the groove. If he ever gets there in the first place.
“Tiger was on the second green. No one was watching me,” Keegan Bradley said after the first round horror show. “It’s just amazing to see the draw that Tiger has. Wow, there was a lot of people.”
And still they will come. The grim fascination will not end until Tiger Woods hits a golf ball for the very last time. At this rate, that sad moment could arrive sooner than you think.
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