Exiting Players Championship, Tiger Woods Shows He’s No Longer a Cub

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REUTERS/Hans Deryk

At one time, the golf world feared Tiger Woods. But these days, taking verbal shots at the struggling legend is a popular sport. And after Woods bowed out of the Players Championship on Thursday morning — he shot a horrid 42 on the front nine, then limped off the course, citing a leg injury — expect talk of Tiger’s demise to get louder.

Woods has not won a tournament since the beginning of 2010, when he returned from the very public unraveling of his private life. His biggest problem, though, is his health.

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At the Masters in early April, Woods hurt his left knee and Achilles tendon during the third round. The Players, often dubbed the fifth major by PGA Tour pros, was his first tournament since that injury. And in the eyes of some fellow pros, Tiger’s mind is still in the wrong place. “I think Tiger is going the wrong way,” Bubba Watson, winner of three PGA Tour events (Woods has won 71), said last week. “I just think he’s so mental with his swing.” Watson, who does not employ a coach, implied that the advice Woods is receiving from his latest swing guru, Sean Foley, is counterproductive. “Just go out there and play golf,” Watson advised. “He used to hit shots, he used to bomb it, used to do all that stuff. In 2000 and ’97, I think he did pretty good. He won the Masters by 48 shots or whatever he won it by. I think sometimes he gets carried away on that. And a lot of guys do.”

This week, when asked for his thoughts on Watson’s critique, Woods replied: “that was interesting.” Indeed, because Watson could be onto something.

In an interview with the New York Post, Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee predicted that Woods could pull out of the Players earlier than he did a year ago, when he left with a neck injury in the final round. “We’ve watched Tiger age so rapidly before our eyes,” Chamblee,  a former pro, said. “It’s really sad to watch what’s going on with Tiger Woods on the range, where this phenomenal athlete with the former best swing perhaps of all time is now, in a sense, an old man out there and going through all of the moves that look like he’s handicapped, trying to reverse the moves that don’t come naturally do him.”

Is writing off Woods, 35, as a broken-down golfer too extreme? After Woods came up lame in yet another outing, that “old-man” tag could very well apply. Tiger has done nothing to dispel it.

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