Among the 1,200 bunkers, eight treacherous holes hugging Lake Michigan, and "whistling" winds at this year's PGA Championship, Tiger Woods reminded golf fans worldwide how quickly he can both enliven our spirits as well as make us wallow in misery.
While Nick Watney clearly blew up and Dustin Johnson clearly didn't read the rules, Tiger Woods clearly didn't do much but reveal the volatility of his mental and physical golf game.
But what stung more than any three-putt or shot that went out of bounds was the semblance of the "Old Tiger" at the beginning of his first round.
He was splitting fairways, hitting it tight into greens, and striding with his confident swagger as he made three birdies in his opening five holes. It was like fate, or some kind of movie script, as the relentless fog finally lifted over the dewy, plush, green fairways at Whistling Straits, Tiger Woods appeared like a gladiator poised for battle.
Then, just as his disastrous weekend at Firestone and completely mediocre season was becoming a distant memory, his shots went awry, putts missed the hole, and it felt like painful deceit.
His consistency was undetectable.
Didn't it seem like every time he got on a roll, it came to a sudden and agonizing halt?
Other then his second round, where he carded three birdies, one bogey, and all pars en route to a two-under-par 70, Woods's game was erratic from tee to green. It became "the norm" that Tiger would strike a monstrous drive down the fairway, then completely fall short or over shoot the green. Then on the next hole he'd do the complete opposite, finding the worst possible place off the tee, but miraculously hitting the green.
It's the reliability factor that's vanished; the sense of security that even if Woods makes a bogey or hits it O.B., he will revive his scorecard with a string of birdies.
Statistically, to say that Woods is under-performing may be the understatement of the year. The only stat he ranks in the top-20 in on Tour remains driving distance (No.19), averaging just over 297 yards.
His 181st rank in driving accuracy means he's not giving himself opportunities to score off the tee. A 171st in greens in regulation means he's not putting himself in position to score on the greens. Finally, 95th in putts per round doesn't mean he's a bad putter, it just means he's human—a fact that most of us are now willing to believe carries some validity.
But these stats, in addition to the visible agony Tiger has undergone throughout this season, perpetuate the ongoing skepticism that Woods will have a resurgence. Tiger was once a constant threat come Sunday at just about any event he competed in, but he has only been in that scenario twice in eight tournaments this season.
With this T-28 finish at the PGA Championship, is anyone actually willing to bet that Tiger will win a professional event in 2010?
But more importantly, will Ryder Cup Captain Corey Pavin choose Woods to compete at Celtic Manor against the European juggernaut?
People want to pinpoint Tiger's issue. Is it his work ethic? His mental game? His putting? His family woes?
Perhaps it's the fusion of these various troubles that has created such perplexity, and, in doing so forced him to abdicate, his Major Championship reign.
One thing is certain: Tiger Woods will need to climb through the trenches and push himself like never before if he hopes to regain his intimidating presence on the PGA Tour.
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