Weird season for Woods limps to end with future performance still up in air

tiger woods
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For the first time in his career, Tiger woods failed to qualify for the Tour Championship.
By
Doug Ferguson
Associated Press

Series:

Published: Monday, September 13, 2010 | 5:29 p.m.

Leave it to the PGA Tour to find the upside of Tiger Woods missing out on the Tour Championship.

In a press release Monday promoting the 30-man field at East Lake, it notes that Woods’ failure to qualify for the last playoff event guarantees there will be a new FedExCup champion this year.

TIGER'S SUNDAY TEE TIMES

Event

Time

BMW Champ.

10:56 a.m.

Deutsche Bank

11:45 a.m.

The Barclays

10:50 a.m.

PGA Champ.

10:44 a.m.

Bridgestone

7:45 a.m.

British Open

12:20 p.m.

AT&T National

10:31 a.m.

U.S. Open

2:05 p.m.

Memorial

11:42 a.m.

Players Champ.

10:30 a.m.

Masters

2:30 p.m.

The FedEx Cup

See our friends at PGATOUR.com for complete coverage of the 2010 FedEx Cup

Phil Mickelson said it “absolutely” will be strange not having the world’s No. 1 player at the Tour Championship, although it’s nothing new. Woods has only played East Lake twice in the past five years, skipping in 2006 after a long year coping with his father’s death and in 2008 when he was recovering from knee surgery.

The difference, of course, is that Woods couldn’t play the Tour Championship even if he wanted. He needed to shoot 65 in the final round of the BMW Championship, and it took him until the 17th hole just to get under par for the final round, and the tournament.

In an explanation he offered three times Sunday -- to NBC Sports, XM Radio and the rest of the media -- he blamed only himself.

“I didn’t play well in the beginning of the year and I didn’t play well in the middle of the year,” he said.

He said he is starting to play well now, but that only shows how far he had fallen. Woods tied 12th at The Barclays, tied for 11th at the Deutsche Bank Championship and tied for 15th at the BMW Championship.

Three straight weeks out of the top 10 used to be called a slump. Now it’s called progress?

But there are other examples of Woods’ weird year on the golf course.

He has gone seven consecutive tournaments out of the top 10, the longest stretch of his career. His previous worst was five straight tournaments out of the top 10. That was in 2001, between victories at the Memorial and Firestone.

And to get an idea of how he is playing, just look at when he is playing.

Woods is typically among the last to arrive because he is in or close to the lead so often. This year, he has teed off before noon in the final round at nine of his 12 tournaments.

The exceptions were the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open. That includes Quail Hollow, where he didn’t even make it to Sunday after missing the cut with the highest 36-hole score of his career.

As he walked down the eighth hole at Firestone on Sunday, Woods could look to his left at the back nine that was empty. That’s never happened before. Then again, he’s never been the second group off on Sunday.

Another first came at Ridgewood in the opening playoff event. Because of his FedExCup ranking -- No. 112 -- Woods teed off so early that he was the first player to hit a shot in the tournament.

“That’s how far I’ve fallen,” he said, a rare glimpse of his self-deprecating humor.

On Saturday morning at Firestone, caddie Steve Williams saw a reporter and asked the whereabouts of another golf writer.

“I never thought this would happen,” came the reply, “but he actually has a later tee time today than Tiger.”

Should anyone find this the least bit shocking?

This is no time to take pity on Woods. He’s the one who created this mess he’s in. But only Woods knows what’s going on inside his head and with his swing.

He split with swing coach, Hank Haney, in May and spent the next three months working out the settlement in a split with his wife.

Woods appears ready to take on a new coach with a new concept. Previous swing changes have taken Woods some 18 months before he figures it all out. Even, he still managed to win at least one tournament, threaten in a couple of others and have time to eat lunch before his final round, not after it.

Perhaps the only shock is that he’s still No. 1 in the world ranking. That’s as much a reflection of Mickelson, who has had 11 tournaments with a mathematical chance to take over. The next comes at the Tour Championship, and the scenario for Lefty to be No. 1 will not depend on Woods because he won’t be there.

They played together in the final round at Cog Hill for the first time all year, tied at even par. Mickelson was five shots ahead after seven holes, as Woods walked with his head down, not looking the least bit like he was having any fun.

Woods rarely does unless he’s winning.

“You tell that his game is inches from turning because his speed is back and his putter looks great,” Mickelson said. “I mean, his game is not far off at all. It looks very close to being right there.”

That’s another measure of how far Woods has fallen -- his biggest rival can only offer an encouraging word.

They might still meet again, though certainly not as a partnership at the Ryder Cup. That didn’t work even in good times. Mickelson is the defending champion in Shanghai at the HSBC Champions, where a year ago he took a two-shot lead into the final round and buried Woods.

For Woods, the HSBC Champions is more meaningful than ever. It will be his last chance this year for a PGA Tour victory (this World Golf Championship only counts as one if a PGA Tour member wins it). Woods has gone 14 consecutive seasons with at least one tour victory, three years away from the record held by Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.

And it’s not a streak that Woods can start over.


Comments

ptown86368

I'm an older guy who has played and watched golf all my life. The truth is that if Tiger is not playing I don't even turn on the TV. What would the point be ? He's the best that there ever has been far and away.

ehs318

Tiger needs some kind of break from so many harsh criticism. He s human and we all make mistakes. Our golf group doesn't watch as much golf if Tiger is not playing.
In the Far East, they dont even understand what Tiger did wrong. A little hanky
hanky here and there? We d be all surprised if there wasnt any. Then he isnt human. But he is very human.
No doubt he ll be back.
I know his best golf is still ahead of him.

hubertchevre

Don't worry for Tiger, Mr Ferguson , he'll be back next year and win some more majors ! You say he'll miss Fedex final, but maybe Fedex will miss him much more in TV audience !! I'm not sure the 30 finalists have won all together the 14 chelem Tiger has already won !!
Phil's encouraging word only shows that he's also a great champion : Exactly like NADAL does when FEDERER is not at his best !!

hubertchevre

Don't worry for Tiger, Mr Ferguson , he'll be back next year and win some more majors ! You say he'll miss Fedex final, but maybe Fedex will miss him much more in TV audience !! I'm not sure the 30 finalists have won all together the 14 chelem Tiger has already won !!
Phil's encouraging word only shows that he's also a great champion : Exactly like NADAL does when FEDERER is not at his best !!

sboyle

I hope Tiger, actually I know Tiger will be back, no ifs ands or buts. I hope all you Tiger haters eat your words, especially the useless twit Brandel Chamblee and the A**hole from CBS Jim Nance.

Why would anyone in the entire world feel that his game would not be affected from what went on with him. Yes it's his own doing, but come on. There are guys on the PGA tour that have not won ever or very few, and people are screaming because he did not win an event this year. A joke.

I hope Tiger plays and wins in all four matches in the Ryder Cup, and the US get thumped. Go get him Tiger