Let’s give Tiger a chance, another one, because he’s missed

Out of Bounds: Absence of Phil Mickelson and Woods didn’t help television figures

Tiger Woods tees off at Pebble Beach at the 2000 US Open. Photograph: Getty Images

Tiger Woods tees off at Pebble Beach at the 2000 US Open. Photograph: Getty Images

 

I don’t know if the late Leonard Cohen ever played golf, and he most certainly didn’t have Tiger Woods specifically in mind when uttering some of his wisdom.

“We’re always experiencing joy or sadness. But there are lots of people who’ve closed down, and there are times in one’s life when one has to close down to regroup,” said Cohen.

Just as Woods in his prime nailed shots, those old words from Cohen would also seem to hit the nail on the head in how we should allow Woods, especially on this occasion, some space; a chance, another one, to regroup.

American television ratings showed that the tournament registered the second lowest figures in recent memory

On leaving Erin Hills the other day, you couldn’t help wondering if the tournament would ever return to the glacial fields of Wisconsin. The same thought materialised on leaving Chambers Bay in 2015. Both were bold moves by the USGA to go to new courses but there was another connection: Woods wasn’t at Chambers Bay either. He’s missed.

The absence of any talk about the absence of Woods was interesting. He wasn’t a topic of conversation at all; yet, as much as the fact that the current Big Three of Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day all failed to make the weekend, which certainly impacted television viewing stateside, you have to figure the absences of Phil Mickelson and Woods didn’t help.

American television ratings showed that the tournament registered the second lowest figures in recent memory, only behind Martin Kaymer’s runaway win at Pinehurst of 2014. And whatever about the bright new world of emerging players - with Brooks Kopeka being the seventh consecutive first-time winner of a Major, dating back to Jason Day’s win in the 2016 US PGA - there is little doubt that Woods’s absence has impacted.

That Pebble Beach display was Woods in his prime

We should all wish that his time in rehab works, that he gets the time to regroup and to move on. He may never play golf again. He might. But this latest rehab is not about golf, it is about allowing him to get a life again.

Woods did many great things on a golf course but that masterful performance in winning the US Open at Pebble Beach in 2000 surely ranks as one of the greatest displays ever in any Major championship. What was it Tom Watson said of Tiger’s performance? “He emasculated the golf,” said Old Tom. That, he did.

One of the most remarkable aspects to Woods’s win that year only emerged long after his record 15 shot winning margin over Ernie Els and Miguel Angel Jimenez. On the Saturday morning as he completed his fog-delayed second round, Woods’s caddie Stevie Williams discovered there were only two golf balls left in the bag as they stood on the 18th tee: unknown to him, Woods had removed a number in practising his putting in his room the previous night and hadn’t replaced them. Others had been handed out to young fans.

So, when Woods hooked his drive into the Pacific Ocean, the ball handed to Woods for another tee shot was the last one left. Williams said, “I’d like to hit an iron, just to get in play.” He didn’t let his boss know it was the last ball, and in his head he was making plans to race to the pro shop to get new balls if that last one also found its way into the bay. Woods hit driver, the ball found the fairway, and Williams only let Woods know of the situation after they’d finished the hole.

That Pebble Beach display was Woods in his prime. And anyone who was at Erin Hills for the weekend, as impressive as Brooks Koepka’s win proved to be, will know that the great man is truly missed.

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