PGA Championship: Wounded Tiger needs to take a real break

It has become fair game to wonder what sort of motivation, if any, Tiger Woods is finding these days for golf. It is also quite sensible to suggest that Friday will be the final round of his 2014-15 PGA Tour season.

PGA Championship: Wounded Tiger needs to take a real break

So utterly brilliant for most of his career and so incredibly overwhelming in major championships, Woods remains in such turmoil — both physically and mentally — that it was stunning how little media attention he drew Thursday morning in the first round of the 97th PGA Championship.

His opening 18-hole jaunt at Whistling Straits didn’t attract more than a few reporters. That you didn’t need even need a few fingers to count the productive shots Woods hits speaks volumes for the sadness that has enveloped this story.

What resonates loud and clear is that whatever optimism Woods tried to cling to after he made the cut at run-of-the-mill PGA Tour stops at Greenbrier and the Quicken Loans, the true measure of his troubles shines through at these major championship.

For the record, Woods required 75 strokes to play his first round of the PGA Championship and the pile of negatives has reached unthinkable limits:

  • Woods has now been over par in six straight major championship rounds.
  • In that stretch of 108 holes he is 27-over par.
  • Should the 39-year-old not rally today he will miss the cut in a major for a third straight and for the fourth time in the last five.
  • His last six rounds, or 108 holes, of major championship golf have yielded just 10 birdies.

All of this, by the way, came in the aftermath of a conversation late Wednesday between a few friends. “How is the man?” one friend said to another, a clear reference to Woods. Slow to respond, the other friend merely shook his head and frowned.

Translation: The lack of fire that carried Woods through two miserable rounds of the US Open (80-76) and two more at the Open Championship (76-75) was more than evident Thursday at Whistling Straits. It wasn’t so much that he hit just seven fairways and 12 greens or that he constantly left himself birdie putts that were so far from the hole that he needed a minute or two to get from his ball to the flagstick. No, what spoke volumes was how little Woods beat himself up.

If it’s true — and it surely looked like it was — that Woods has accepted his pedestrian play as the best he can do, then you must wonder about some of the whispers, that he is merely going through the motions at these major championships and mundane PGA Tour stops to fulfil contractual obligations to sponsors.

Certainly, he’s not here because he thinks he can win, and ask yourself if you ever thought you’d see that day?

The answer is no.

For all the times Woods has insisted he is changing his swing and the poor play is merely a byproduct of those adjustments, there appears to be a greater truth in play. Woods had a microdiscectomy in late March 2014 and by all rights he likely should have gone to the sidelines for a minimum of six months.

With so few legitimate birdie chances Thursday, it was stunning to hear Woods say, “I hit it great today.”

Equally shocking was to hear him say, “I stuck to the way I wanted to pretty much play all day.”

All around him, red numbers were being tossed down . Woods should have been disgusted. Instead, he seemed resigned. The greatest player of his generation needs a break.

He’s likely to get it, too, thanks to yet another letdown in a major arena he once owned.

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