The following is the latest in a series of opinion columns by WUSA 9 Sports Anchor Dave Owens.
WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- This week during the AT&T National, Tiger Woods was asked about comments made by CBS Sports golf analyst Nick Faldo who suggested Woods was struggling mentally.
Tiger responded, "I don't know, I've won four times this season."
The reporter then followed up by asking Woods directly whether he was struggling mentally. Tiger's response, "no."
It was an answer that I expected but I couldn't help but think was Tiger himself deflecting an inevitable fact that he and his legion of fans don't want to admit?
Tiger hasn't won a major championship since he limped to the finish in that memorable 2008 U.S. Open. Woods had won on one leg and quite frankly casual fans like me sat in amazement and thought there's nothing this guy can't do. Through the years I'm sure the same things have been uttered about Jordan, Bonds, Gretzky, Tyson, Ali, Phelps, Navratilova, Federer, and Montana just to name a few.
That list includes some of the greatest sportspersons ever. But there is one thing none of them could ever accomplish and that's beat Father Time. Former NBA star and current analyst Charles Barkley has a signature line: "Father Time is undefeated." He's correct.
One of the toughest things for fans to recognize is when a dominant athlete's glory days have passed. Even for reporters and analysts it's sometimes hard to detect when greatness is no longer great. After all, we get so used to seeing these seemingly superhuman athletes do unimaginable things that subconsciously we always think of them as elite.
I remember when Michael Jordan played for the Wizards. He wasn't Air Jordan, he was pudgy Jordan. He was no longer the sleek two-guard that dashed like a greyhound. He was the small forward who seemed more minivan than anything else. When he would erupt for a big scoring night inevitably you would hear some analyst talk about Jordan looking like his old self. In truth, those days were few and far between.
Back to Tiger. By no metric can anyone say he's playing like his former self. He's changed his swing, he's battled injuries, and he's been absent from the winner's circle at the biggest events. He's also not as clutch. I'm no golf expert but doesn't it seem as if he misses more midrange putts than he used to? If there's one thing about Tiger that used to stand out it was his penchant to make THE putt. That doesn't happen as much anymore.
Others have noticed too, like the aforementioned Faldo, as well as some current players on the PGA Tour. After his first round at this week's AT&T National, Billy Horschel was asked what the event was like sans Woods. "He's just another guy," said Horschel. In fairness to Horschel he wasn't dissing Woods; in fact he was simply trying to articulate to reporters that he couldn't be worried about someone who wasn't in the field.
"He's just another player out there," said Horschel. "For me, thinking about someone, how great he is, is just a distraction for me. But it is a disappointment that he's not playing out there because obviously it is his event. The crowds love him to death, and he does spice up the event a little bit."
No diss intended. But important to note because there's a legion of young golfers like Horschel who, at one point probably idolized Woods. Now they're eager to take on the challenge of beating him. They also recognize Woods' shroud of invincibility is gone. Just like when Mike Tyson got cold-cocked by Buster Douglas. The boogeyman had been defeated.
Yes, Tiger has won four times this season. So what! Winning non-majors was never the way he judged himself and it was never the way we judged him. Lauding Woods for winning a non-major is like celebrating the Lakers for winning a Pacific Division Title. So what!
This isn't surprising though. We do this to our super-duper stars. We want them to be great again and again and again. Even as the talent starts to fade, when we see a smidgen of greatness, we get excited. We yearn for them to return to the days when they did things we just couldn't imagine. That's why we love them. Truth is, however, they never return. Once it goes, it's gone.
Tiger will win a major again because the laws of averages say so. If he plays 10 more years, he will probably surpass Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 majors. But if you're looking for dominant Tiger, stop! He's gone and isn't coming back.