With his usual red attire on a Sunday at Torrey Pines in sunny San Diego, Calif., Tiger Woods was one 15-foot put away from forcing a playoff with 45-year old Rocco Mediate for the 2008 U.S. Open title. After crouching down, observing the green and analyzing his shot, he stood back up and readied his putter. Then it happened.
Woods sunk the putt, sending himself, the crowd, and me—a Tiger Woods enthusiast—into an eardrum-puncturing hysteria. And, the next day, Woods outlasted Mediate in an intensely tight 19-hole playoff to end up as the U.S. Open champion. The tournament would go down as one of the top sports moments in all of my time as a sports fan, along with one of Woods’ crowning moments of his already shimmering career.
And it would be his last.
In reluctant honor of Woods’ most recent stumble—the worst Sunday tally of his career, a birdie-less 78, in the Cadillac Championship on Sunday—I’d like to make a bold prediction: Tiger Woods, whose last major victory was that historic U.S. Open and who I’ve always admired as one of the greatest competitors out there, is never going to win another major golf tournament. Ever.
To think it all started with a simple car accident… or so we thought.
Just days after Thanksgiving in 2009, Woods was reportedly in a “minor accident,” according to Woods’ website, where his black Mercedes SUV ended up crashing into a fire hydrant and tree outside his home. He was sent to a nearby hospital and treated for cuts and bruises on his face. As an awkward silence followed the odd incident—he barely had made it out of his driveway—speculation from different media outlets started to deluge in, thus beginning the irreparable damages to soon pollute Woods’ entire reputation.
It turned out that Woods’ wife, Elin, was distraught about a possible mistress of Woods’. One thing led to another, and Elin supposedly began attacking her husband and swinging at the fleeing vehicle with a golf club—ironic, right?
As the story got murkier and murkier with disturbing accusations, names, like Rachel Uchitel and Jamie Grubbs, started popping up from the woodworks as alleged mistresses of the billion-dollar golfer. One after another, Woods found himself in quite the predicament.
On Dec. 11 of that same year, Woods posted this on his website: “I am deeply aware of the disappointment and hurt that my infidelity has caused to so many people, most of all my wife and children. I want to say again to everyone that I am profoundly sorry and that I ask forgiveness. It may not be possible to repair the damage I’ve done, but I want to do my best to try. […] After much soul searching, I have decided to take an indefinite break from professional golf. I need to focus my attention on being a better husband, father, and person.”
While more and more of these details spewed out of the incessant leak that sprang from one seemingly ordinary car accident, the iconic sports figure’s sponsors started to back off one-by-one…-by-one…
First, it was Accenture, then Gatorade, AT&T, Gillette and Tag Heuer, with EA Sports—who coined its popular golfing video game after him—being the latest one to join the anti-Woods club. The only major ubiquitously recognized company that stuck with Woods throughout the ordeal was Gillette.
The best a man can get, huh?
Nevertheless, through thick and thin, I have stuck with Woods and believed he could come out of this entire controversy unscathed golf-wise. As we all do, I tried to conjure excuses for my favorite golfer—he’s unlucky, injured, impaired by inclement weather… he’ll win next time!—but now has come the time where excuses and complaints are overshadowed by reality.
And the reality is this: since Woods fell and had a great fall, nobody—including the king’s men—could completely put him back together again.
Starting from the return from his “indefinite break,” as he called it, Woods has gone 0-17 at the four majors—the Masters, U.S. Open, PGA and Open Championship—with finishes ranging from third place to, well, not even making it to the final rounds.
In 2010, he finished 11-under-par and tied for fourth place, which was a solid performance; however, Phil Mickelson’s two-straight 67s in the final rounds severed himself from the rest of the field. Woods, again, placed near the top of the leaderboard in fourth place at three-over at that year’s U.S. Open, albeit his four-over final round may have lost him the tournament. In the Open Championship and PGA Championship, he placed an underwhelming 23rd and 28th with a three-under and two-under score.
2011 teased me once again, as Woods scored a 67 in the final round of the Masters, surging him past members of the leaderboard, although it wasn’t enough. He ended in a tie for fourth. The bad taste in my mouth lingered as the only other tournament he competed in that year, the PGA Championship, yielded a plus-10 after two rounds. He was cut and sent home packing.
Woods’ woes continued in the 2012 Masters, where his plus-five final score resulted in a tied-for-40th placing. In the U.S. Open, the bait was dangled in front of me once again, as he was in first place through two rounds, but dropped to 21st after a lackluster latter half.
Later in 2012, competing in the Open Championship, Woods led the field with two-straight superb rounds of a score of 67. His 70 and 73 in the second half of competition, on the other hand, pushed him down to a third-place finish at three-under. In the final tournament that year, the PGA Championship, nobody, including Woods, could come even close to the up-and-coming Rory McIlroy and his minus-13. Woods, two-under, finished in a tie for 11th.
Woods showed more promise last year, with highlights coming from his two top-10 finishes in the Masters and Open Championship. Conversely, though, his losing streak continued in the U.S. Open, where he finished 12 strokes off the lead at plus-13. In addition, at the PGA Championship—the most recent major Woods participated in at this point—Woods fell behind early, and stayed well behind Jason Dufner’s final score of 10-under. His four-over-par landed him tied for 40th—and me in a perplexed state of, “Where oh where did my Tiger go?”
I honestly can’t answer that question, but, if the 38-year-old’s ailing body has anything to say, it better happen soon.
Whether it’s a knee, Achilles or elbow, Woods seems to be grimacing about something during every tournament.
In 2008, Woods put off surgery for his aching left knee. Sure, playing in the U.S. Open happened to be quite the good decision, but it has caused a perennial problem while digging into the heavy sand and thick rough ever since the dynamic victory.
During the 2010 season, a nagging back injury sent tingling and discomfort down the right side of his body. Also, in December, his right Achilles started acting up and caused him to resort to a cortisone shot in the middle of a competition.
The next year, Woods’ Achilles flared up once more, but it was the left one this time. The injury not only impacted the final round of the Masters, but it withheld Woods from playing in that year’s U.S. Open as well—the first time that happened since 1994, when the phenom first revealed himself to the golf world.
The poor play in 2013 was also blamed on injuries, which included an alleged sore left elbow and—drumroll, please—an aggravating back due to a stiff hotel mattress.
It’s really unfortunate that Woods has gone down this unsuccessful, injury-laden road over the past few years, and we’ll have to see if he can turn it around in April when the Masters rolls around. Nonetheless, if Woods’ major victories have, indeed, come to a halt, he still will go down as one of the greatest and most decorated golfers of all time.
Woods is only four back of Jack Nicklaus’ all-time-leading 18 majors won and he lies in third place in total PGA Tour wins, behind Sam Snead and Nicklaus, with 65.
Whether Woods can drink a magical elixir to help forget about the past and mold his body back together for the future, or keep plodding down this perfunctory path of coming up short, one thing has been for certain over these past five years.
Karma is a—well, you know.