Teed Off (20-11-2011)
with Robert Bicknell
Given his results in Australia, it looks like Tiger Woods is on his way back into contention as a dangerous force. This is a great thing for the golf writers worldwide who no longer have to learn difficult names such as "Lodewicus Theodorus ‘Louis' Oosthuizen", or to actually research other players. They can go back to gushing about Tiger ad nauseum in every article and collect a healthy paycheck.
Yet I still have my doubts about Tiger's return. Not so much about if he will return to form, but rather when. Sure, he's definitely showing progress, but it will take some time before he is razor sharp and the bigger question is whether he will strike terror into the hearts of today's young lions like he did in older players.
The players out there now like Oosthuizen, Westwood, McIlroy, Adam Scott and the like are not likely to roll over and play dead like possums the moment Tiger makes a charge. Just look at the last tournament, where Craig Chalmer refused to buckle and stayed focused, despite the "Tiger charge".
Previously, Chalmer's best finishes were ties for 8th place in the Shell Houston Open and the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. This is a guy who normally finishes out of the top 20 in most of the events this year.
Not someone who you would think is tournament hardened enough to keep his wits about him when the former number one player in the world and perhaps, the greatest player who ever lived was hot on his tail.
Yet, he didn't cave-in like a deck chair on the Titanic like most other pros used to do.
At the time of this writing, Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker went down to defeat against Adam Scott and KJ Choi in the President's Cup with what has been reported as the "worst performance in President's Cup history".
The next pairing will see Tiger paired with the big hitting Dustin Johnson as they take on Jason Day and Aaron Baddeley.
The problem is that Tiger Woods really doesn't play well with other people. His Ryder Cup record has been less than stellar, although some of those losses can be attributed to stupid pairings…like when they paired Tiger and Mickelson together.
Imagine that, two of the biggest egos out there expected to co-operate instead of trying to one-up each other. Real bad idea.
So, a poor performance by Tiger in the President's Cup really doesn't matter when we consider his return. If he plays great, that can only help his confidence. If he doesn't, well he can always claim his swing is still under repair, or he's still a work in progress.
Woods has always been a lone wolf. He functions best when he controls the situation, both on and off the course. Team play doesn't allow him to dictate what happens. He has to deal with an errant shot by his partner and a completely different set of mental dynamics.
OK, speaking of Phil Mickelson, everyone is aware that he's been inducted into Golf's Hall Of Fame… correct?
Yup, believe it or not, good old Phil received 72 per cent of the votes. Under the rules, a candidate must get at least 65 per cent. In contrast, Fred Couples only got 38 per cent, while Mark O'Meara and Davis Love III got 29 per cent. Go figure.
Personally, I'd think Couples would be an automatic inductee, same for Davis Love III.
Mickelson's play and his professional style are top notch. The only scandal I can ever envision him involved in would be if he dropped a frosted Krispy Kreme donut on his Masters' jacket.
Despite my constant razzing on him, Mickelson was a four-time All-American golfer at Arizona State and since turning pro in 1992, won 39 tournaments including three Masters' and a PGA Championship. That alone should earn him an automatic entry.
Yes, I will continue to razz him whenever I think he deserves it, simply because I personally believe he could have been even better than he is now. Somewhere along the line, Mickelson got comfortable with his position. He couldn't take on Tiger head to head, despite all the big talk.
But, he's a Hall of Famer now, so give him his due. — VNS