The PGA Championship, won under cloak of darkness by Rory McIlroy, proved that golf can be dramatic and historic without Tiger Woods. Maybe we already knew that, but at times it’s tough to remember. After a majors season that was not particular interesting — Bubba Watson’s thrilling Masters victory was followed by two runaways — the PGA had it all.
A wild, four-man battle that featured two of the brightest young stars (Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson), the historically-great Phil Mickelson and the reigning king (Rory McIlroy), plus a rain delay that pushed the end to sunset and McIlroy playing up into the group ahead of him (Mickelson and Fowler) in an attempt to finish with a semblance of light. And finally, Mickelson missing an eagle chip by inches before settling for birdie that forced McIlroy to make par to win. Which he did putting in virtual darkness.
And Tiger wasn’t needed. Tiger missed the cut. I wrote Tiger last week, a blog you can read here. The guy’s act is wearing thin.
A reader, Paul Engel of Edmond, wrote some interesting comments about Tiger I thought I would share:
“I have been fortunate enough to attend about 15 or more PGA or USGA events, including five majors, and all for multiple days. This has occurred over a period of 40 years. My first event was the 1977 U.S. Open at Southern Hills won by Hubert Green. A slight man with a weird swing but a fierce competitor. Well, I was hooked and have attended all locals and the Byron Nelson in Fort Worth (he might mean the Colonial, or both) several times.
“I saw Tiger Woods early in his career. He was a skinny, very flexible golfer with the most effective putting stroke I have ever seen. He has become a monster. He looks like a college defensive back now, and I have stood just a few feet from him many times at tee boxes and on the practice areas. Most college defensive backs were pretty bulked up upon entering college. This is, of course, why they are playing at that level. Tiger Woods has gained a lot of bulk after his college years and put it on what I called a skinny kid back then.
“The wear on a body to acquire his level of fitness and the added bulk has ruined his game and is causing injuries as he ages. It’s just that simple. Mentally, he is, of course, not the same, but combined with the physical changes he has undergone it explains a lot of his problems. His body was never meant to be shaped like it is now. I don’t believe his frame was built for it.
“Hubert Green with his persimmon woods and what looked to be a Putt Putt putter, with what we now know were death threats against him, in 100-degree heat, managed to win a U.S. Open. Not bad for a skinny little guy with a weird swing. If Tiger had left himself alone, he would already have those 18 majors.
“One more observation. He is one of the least approachable golfers at a tournament. I understand the all-business of a tournament, but many of the PGA pros are friendly and regularly speak with patrons. Hell, Mickelson is like Will Rogers at a tournament.”
I think Paul makes some interesting claims. The game has changed — everyone is bigger; Mickelson is much more buff than 15 years ago, when he challenged Payne Stewart in that great U.S. Open at Pinehurst — and the courses are longer. But Tiger has indeed gone overboard with changes to his body. He is putting too much pressure on his knees and his back, and the results are in.
And golf is starting about the business of going on without him.