|Is Tiger really in a slump?|
By Jim Armstrong
Special to Page 2
Five words you never thought you'd read on the Internet: Tiger is in a slump.
At least, I keep hearing he's in a slump. Okay, so maybe it isn't a curse-of-the-Bambino, 85-year-long, slump-for-the-ages kind of slump. But it's a slump, nonetheless. Must be. It's been in all the papers.
I know what you're thinking. We all should be in this kind of slump. We all should be dating a '12.' We all should be the inspiration for a Poverty Sucks poster, the one with the seven Porsches in the garage. We all should have a Body by Nautilus. We all should hit a three-quarters 6-iron 200 into the teeth of a monsoon.
Tiger? In a slump? Right. My '91 Subaru needs a brake job, the wife has been on me to drop a few LBs and I'm on the verge of wearing a kilt and teeing it up from the reds. I suppose that means I'm on a roll.
The Nasdaq is in a slump. The Bengals are in a slump. Anna Kournikova, the proud owner of zero WTA wins this century or any other, is in a slump. The Republican Guard is in a slump. Tiger? In a slump? Please.
Then again, by his standards, what are we supposed to make of this career divot Tiger finds himself in? The man -- lower case 'm,' you'll notice -- hasn't won a major in more than a year. A left-handed, beer-drinking Canadian, Mike Wier, is going to be the player of the year. If it isn't Wier, then it'll be Kenny Perry, who has more chins than wins.
Tiger? Sure, he's won a handful of tournaments, but he'd gladly swap them all for a one-stroke playoff victory at the PGA. It isn't possible, but he ranks 19th on the Tour in driving distance and 119th in driving accuracy. He's had his hands in more weeds than the Trail Blazers' entire roster. The only athlete who has more trouble with his driving than Tiger is Randy Moss. Linus has his security blanket; Tiger has his 2-iron.
Back in the day -- like, say, 18 months ago -- Tiger used to blow everyone away. Now he scrambles his way around the course from water hazard to shining water hazard. If he isn't all over the map, he takes up at least as much space as China. How else do you explain his No. 1 ranking in eagles and his No. 3 niche in birdies despite those God-awful stats from the tee box?
How bad are things going for Tiger? Consider this: If he played on the Nationwide Tour, he'd rank 37th in driving distance and 77th in driving accuracy. His first shot at the British Open blew so far OB, they couldn't have found it with bomb-sniffing dogs. By Sunday, he was wishing he could trade places with the immortal Ben Curtis, the world's 396th-ranked player, though I'm assuming the Swedish bikini model wouldn't have been part of the transaction.
Then came the Battle of the Bridges, your basic made-for-TV payday created by Tiger's image molders at IMG. With nothing more than legal tender at stake, Tiger decided to discard his Nike driver and return to the Titleist 975 D that he used in 1997, back in the dark ages of golf-equipment technology. Not to worry, Nike stockholders. Now that LeBron is in the fold, sneakers ought to more than make up for the train wreck in the golf division.
In other words, Lefty was right. Tiger has had inferior equipment in his bag the whole time. At least, that's the perception most people will have. What else are we supposed to think? The spin doctors at Nike were so concerned, they sent out a press release reminding everyone that Tiger still uses the Swoosh's irons and balls. The ball isn't the problem. The problem is finding the ball after he uses Nike's driver.
I don't know about you, but I'm a little concerned about Tiger. It's gotten to the point where he's just the best golfer in our world, rather than in his own parallel universe. Maybe, strange as it sounds, he could use some suggestions from the gallery.
Or maybe Tiger has girl problems. It's not like it doesn't happen to a famous athlete now and then. Or haven't you heard about that $4-million diamond ring Kobe bought his significantly ticked-off other in hopes of seeing the inside of his bedroom again some day?
Or maybe Tiger is wound too tightly after losing so many majors. Maybe he needs to relax, chill out, let his hair down a little. Maybe he should sneak a Marlboro Light, mainline a few M&Ms, hold court with Jack Daniels at the 19th tee box. The John Daly Workout, in other words.
Sounds stupid, I know. It'll never happen. But something has to give, doesn't it? This can't go on, can it? I mean, this is Tiger we're talking about.
Used to be, anyway.
Jim Armstrong, a sports columnist for the Denver Post, is a regular contributor to Page 2.