Reign of Tiger is over

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It must be similar to what Muhammad Ali’s army of fans tasted when the great boxer was getting pummelled, deep in the autumn of his career.

He kept on for too long, and the sheen that glossed so many of his most memorable fights and victories in and outside the ring was blighted by his not being able to tell us about them any more.

Ali’s Parkinson’s disease affliction is a far more brutal reality than missing four-footers and weekend cuts, but Tiger Woods’s freefall into golfing mediocrity must be almost as painful to a man who was assumed to be The Chosen One.

He used to live for the thrill of the back nine on a Sunday, but it is hard to think back so far to a Sunday when he was in the field, never mind in contention.

Woods’s stubborn refusal to alter his game to his body’s significant wear and tear and rely more on his iron play instead of his increasingly volatile long game keeps hurting his numbers.

Aligned with a newly discovered – and growing – seed of doubt in what used to be known as the most powerful mind in sport, he is now merely one of the pack.

I spent a few blissful days at South Africa’s version of golf heaven this week, at Fancourt in George. Inevitably, the conversation steered towards Tiger Woods.

From caddies to teaching pros and even hotel managers, every man had a thought about the 195th-ranked golfer in the world today.

You see, a lot of these people had seen the “other” Tiger at close quarters, during that President’s Cup a lifetime ago, when he and Ernie Els duelled deep into the night, on the treacherous stretch of land known as The Links.

South Africa’s top course is up to the same exacting standards as that which Woods and company tackle every time a Major pops up.

Even good shots can be punished on those tracks, but the Tiger the people at Fancourt saw was adept at navigating his way around and over the humps and bumps.

They saw how he eliminated every shred of doubt from his mind before executing a shot.

That Tiger, they say, had a magnetic aura, a shuddering intensity that unnerved even the starter on the first tee, at times. You knew when he had arrived, or when he had rifled in a deadly approach to a tough pin position.

And you certainly knew when he stood over a key putt, and found a way to get it in the cup.

He had his own form of electricity that he could switch on, but he has been quietly load shedding that power since 2009.

There is a humbling sense of helplessness in his eye now; the kind of wincing embarrassment we regular hacks encounter at least once in a round, as this wonderfully wicked game throws its ups and downs at us.

Woods used to know how to overcome those, better than anyone else. But not any more. He’s lost it, quite possibly never to find it again.

There is a growing school of thought that says, for his legacy’s sake, the second-greatest golfer of all time should pack it all in now.

But, inevitably, there are the diehards who say there is still life in the old dog, and he will find his magic again, and win again on one beautiful Sunday.

The problem there, of course, is that Tiger Woods doesn’t do weekend golf any more…

Happy Father’s Day, gentlemen.

Original source: Reign of Tiger is over

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