Tiger Woods’ troubles continued this weekend at the Honda Classic in Florida in more ways than one. It started with poor play and ended with a back injury Sunday that forced him to withdraw from the tournament. Woods had talked confidently all week leading up to the tournament about how his game was finally coming in to form and he was ready to contend again. That is on hold now.
Woods barely made the cut after the first two days after shooting even par before a shooting a 65 on Saturday that had fans buzzing that perhaps he had finally found his way back. Not so fast. Whether it was his back or just poor play Woods was five over par after 13 holes and decidedly not ready to contend again. The back injury just mitigates things further.
Perhaps it was just a precaution that had to be taken with The Masters just six weeks away but even if Tiger’s back is feeling better, he cannot be too optimistic about his chances at Augusta after this weekend. The word around the tournament this week was Woods would add another event to his schedule to help him get ready for The Masters. That idea will likely be scratched as he tried to rest his back in preparation for Augusta.
These are sobering times for Woods who seemed genuinely confident he had his game where he wanted. Poor play and a sore back will do that. The question now is where does he go from here?
Whatever the answer may be he will need to find it fast. Rory McIlroy has been mostly brilliant this season except for a poor performance Sunday. Phil Mickelson is always in contention at The Masters and has been raving about what his new driver is doing for his game.
The Masters is only six weeks away, but can Woods really be considered the clear favorite anymore? Over McIlroy or Mickelson? That seems far-fetched at the moment. Or at least until Woods’ troubles are solved.
If this sounds unfair it probably would be to anyone else. Woods is different, though. His standards are higher than everyone because he was better than everyone for so long. Not anymore. Woods is just like everyone else chasing majors now. They are hard to come by and it’s been nearly six years since he pulled it off.
The thing with Tiger and his game at the moment is there is not really one clear-cut thing he can do to fix it. He is wild off the tee with his driver and has been for years. He does not putt like he used to. Even on Saturday when he shot the 65 it should have been a little better as he missed three birdie putts. He may not have made all of them 10 years ago, but he would have made some of them.
Perhaps it is time for all of us to adjust our expectations. Tiger Woods’ troubles will continue. Because Tiger Woods is not the same player anymore.
By Mick Varner