Sunday, February 13, 2011

Where Does Tiger Go From Here?

   I'm sitting here looking at a photo of Tiger Woods' new digs in Florida, a reported $80-million compound that includes a four-hole practice facility, three pools, a track, a tennis court and a 5,700-square foot workout facility, not to mention beach access and room to park his yacht.


   And a few minutes ago I was watching Tiger Woods finishing 20th in Dubai, shooting 75 on Sunday, closing with a double bogey and catching some justifiable flak for spitting on the 12th green. Not the kind of Tiger Sunday we used to know.

   The game that helped build the house has gone missing. So has the confidence. And, so has the certainty that he will eventually break Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 major championship victories.

   Woods used to make it look easy. Even when he was grinding, there was an elegance about it. And now golf has become work for Woods. He's always worked at it, maybe harder than anyone and that it was part of the secret of his success. But his work was producing symphonies, not radio jingles.

   Woods is working at it again, trying to recreate his old magic with a new technique and it's a slow process with no promises.

   Because of what he's done on the golf course, Woods has created the impossible expectations that come every time he steps to the first tee and we went along for the ride. Now it's bumpy. Now every round is like a check of the thermometer when the patient is sick.

   Is he getting better? Is he getting worse? What's the prognosis?

   There's every reason to believe he's going to be fine but in two starts this year -- the fresh start season -- Tiger has been ordinary. He continues to talk a good game, saying he's making progress, sounding like a man reinforcing his own convictions. That's part of what he needs to do, committing to his third major swing change.

   It's strange watching Woods play golf like this. It feels awkward.

   Is it possible Woods never gets it back? Yes.

   Is that likely? No.

   He has more major championships in him, a few more I think. He's struggled through swing changes before but this time it feels different because it is different. There's more involved than swing planes.

   Tiger's next start is expected to be the World Golf Championship Accenture Match Play Championship in another week. Wonder what happens there?