Attention Myrtle Beach golfers: Be on the lookout for a middle-aged guy, possibly going by the name “Eldrick” and playing with an awesome set of clubs. Do not attempt to engage this man in a skins game or even bet him a drink he can't drive one 350 yards.
OK, so maybe Tiger Woods isn't on a Myrtle Beach golf getaway during his self-imposed hiatus from the PGA Tour, but nor is he where everyone expected – atop leaderboards and in hot pursuit of Sam Snead and Jack Nicklaus' respective records for most wins (82) and majors (18). Instead, Tiger is stuck on 79 and 14, and going nowhere anytime soon.
For Tiger to be sitting on those numbers seemed unimaginable five years ago, when the big question was “when” not “if” Tiger would break those time-tested marks. But the infamous infidelity scandal and recurring injury issues have conspired to do the one thing that hundreds of pro golfers couldn't do nearly two decades – beat Tiger.
We were supposed to be watching Woods contend for titles and pump his first for years to come, but now we're left with the lasting images of Tiger scrambling his way to a record high round of 82 at the Phoenix Open, followed by his painful withdrawal from the Farmers Insurance Open. His score after 11 holes was what he used to shoot in 18.
Rather than continuing the sad spectacle, Woods announced that he will not play another PGA tournament until he thinks he can compete “at the highest level.” No one knows when that will be, but it won't be the Feb. 26 Honda Classic, which is played in his own back yard, nor will it be the March 5 World Golf Championship at Doral. Woods, who spent the better part of his career ranked No. 1, didn't qualify as No. 66.
“Right now, I need a lot of work on my game, and to still spend time with the people that are important to me,” Woods said. “My play and scores, are not acceptable for tournament golf. Like I've said, I enter a tournament to compete at the highest level, and when I think I'm ready, I'll be back … but I won't be there unless my game is tournament-ready. That's not fair to anyone.”
Especially not to Tiger, who finally seems to understand that he can’t slap a Band-Aid on the bigger issues that are plaguing his game. His previous approach to rehab seems to be how quickly, not how successfully, he could recover from an injury. The body needs time to heal, and so does the mind. Many of his health issues may be between his ears.
Tiger is a textbook case of what happens when you put too much pressure on yourself to perform. His expectations for himself are extremely high, which is a big reason he became the best at such an early age. But it’s also what’s keeping him from becoming the old Tigers Woods again. Baby steps don’t seem to be an option for a guy who has already walked on water. He has to accept that he’s going to get wet a few times before he can cakewalk his way around Rae’s Creek again.
As it turns out, a timeout may be just what the doctor ordered for Tiger. Physically, he can and will recover if given the proper time and rehab. But only when he develops the right mental approach will he get back on track to write a successful sequel to the thrilling first half of his career.