This year’s PGA Championship, which tees off Thursday from Whistling Straits in Haven, Wisconsin, isn’t quite a do-or-die tournament for Tiger Woods.
But for those fans still clinging to the belief that Woods can return to his dominating form — it’s still shocking to know that so many people are convinced that Tiger’s aura is now gone for good — it would sure be nice if his swing showed up. Last week, Woods turned in a particularly awful performance at the Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio, a tournament he had won seven times. He shot 18 over par, his worst relation-to-par showing as a pro, and finished in 78th place, his lowest ever on Tour. We were all left wondering: who is this strange, goateed creature in a Nike shirt, spraying balls all over the course? (See GOLF.com’s live blog of the PGA championship.)
The armchair shrinks, and golf pros, are out in full force. Woods is emotionally drained from all the controversies, and they’re killing his concentration. His various injuries, combined with the rust he developed during his tumultuous off-season, have caught up to him. Golf magazine recently picked apart Woods’ swing, comparing the 2010 version to what we saw in 2000, when Tiger won the U.S. Open, British Open, and PGA Championship (he then won the 2001 Masters, completing the “Tiger Slam”). His downswing is too steep, he’s exiting too low, he’s swinging the club too far from his body: golf mumbo jumbo aside, he’s a mess.
Whatever is driving his downfall, Woods needs to make a quick correction if he want’s to qualify for this year’s Ryder Cup. U.S. captain Corey Pavin allegedly told Golf Channel reporter Jim Gray — yeah, the game guy that supposedly masterminded LeBron James’ widely mocked “Decision” program on ESPN — that Woods is a lock to make the team. Pavin has strongly denied ever making that remark, and the reporter and ex-pro golfer even had a nasty press-room confrontation about the whole affair.
Whatever. If Woods comes close to repeating his Bridgestone performance at the PGA, the final major of the year, Pavin will have an easy decision. During the early October Ryder Cup tournament in Wales, he should tell Woods to take his talents to South Beach, Palm Beach, or anywhere else on this side of the Atlantic. Just keep him away from the U.K.