After his embarrassing finish at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am on Sunday, golf fans are finally asking the question: Is Tiger Woods finished? The writing's been on the wall for a while, but just now are many Tiger Woods fans able to admit it: The Woods we came to enjoy, the guy who was an assassin on the final day of so many tournaments, is gone.
Woods had never gone three calendar years without winning a Major...until now. He had never gone 14 straight Majors without a title...until now. He hasn't finished in the top 3 of a Major in two-and-a-half years. He was once virtually invincible to Phil Mickelson; now Mickelson pairs with him and beats him by 11 strokes in one round. That red shirt Woods wears on Sundays is now little more than a symbol of frustration.
What a terrible string of mistakes he made leading up to his collapse. The circumstances leading up to the night his wife attacked him with a golf club appeared to be those of a Jekyll and Hyde. Unfortunately, it seems Mr. Hyde has permanently taken over the golf great's club swing.
Will this be the year of the Tiger? I doubt it. While I remain a big fan of Tiger Woods, it's tough to see him pulling together even four days of golf good enough to win just one of the four Majors this year. It could happen. But whereas four years ago we were conditioned to believe he would win in the end, we're now conditioned to expect him to lose. And, I have to believe, so is he.
Now the sport of golf's biggest problem is showing itself: The lack of a star other than Tiger Woods. Mickelson has tried over the years, but he simply hasn't drawn the TV audience and fanbase that Woods has. The last seven Majors have all been won by a different person, and each one of them winning a Major for the first time. In fact, 10 of the last 12 have been won by one-hit-wonders. Keegan Bradley? Louis Oosthuizen? Charl Schwartzel? It's hard to believe these men will be the answer to the Tiger void.
I'll be cheering for Woods at the Masters this spring. But the hope and expectations that once went hand-in-hand with that enthusiasm are now gone.