Will we ever see the old Tiger Woods?
Every time Woods shows signs of returning to form, numerous pundits jump on the bandwagon and declare, “Tiger is back!” So far, however, those proclamations have been premature.
The latest example is the U.S. Open. Woods won the Memorial two weeks prior to the U.S. Open, so there was some renewed excitement surrounding Woods at the Open. When Woods finished the second round tied for the lead at San Francisco’s Olympic Club, many expected him to win his first major tournament since the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.
But Woods shot a 5-over-par 75 on Saturday, dropping 5 strokes behind co-leaders Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell. Instead of making a charge on Sunday, Woods played the first three holes in 4-over, removing any chance he had of winning.
As Tiger’s dominating game has faded, so has his mystique. Other players no longer seem intimidated by Tiger. His presence near the top of the leaderboard creates excitement in the crowd, but not fear among the players.
The reason is that Tiger is as likely to fall apart as he is to run away with the tournament. In fact, these days it seems more likely that his game will fall apart.
Woods is showing signs of returning to form, winning two tournaments this year. But it’s possible that we’ll never see him dominate the game the way he did for a decade. He’s been stuck on 14 major victories for four years. Until he wins a major, we should hold off on the “Tiger is back!” proclamations.
WEBB MASTER: The U.S. Open was won by Webb Simpson. Anyone have Simpson in their golf pool? Didn’t think so.
STRANGE STREAK: Tiger Woods isn’t the only former major champion who seems unable to capture that magic. The last 15 majors have been won by 15 different players. The last nine major winners, including Simpson, had never won a major before.
VICTORY LANE: Tiger Woods didn’t end his four-year streak without a major victory, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. ended his four-year winless streak in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup series with a dominating win Sunday at the Quicken Loans 400 in Michigan. Earnhardt had gone 143 races since his last victory, which also took place at Michigan International Speedway in 2008.
There was some additional poignancy to Junior’s victory because it occurred on Father’s Day. Dale Earnhardt was one of the giants of NASCAR before dying in a crash at the 2001 Daytona 500.
Junior has become NASCAR’s most popular driver, but has never been able to duplicate his father’s success. This season, however, Earnhardt is second in the overall standings, just four points out of first place.
VICTORY LANE? Who will be next to win a game, Cliff Lee or the Philadelphia Union?
CELEBRATION FIT FOR A KING: Actually, the turnout for the Kings’ Stanley Cup celebration was pretty lame, but what did you expect in Los Angeles? Congratulations to the Kings, including former Flyers Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne and Justin Williams and former Flyers draft pick Colin Fraser. It was particularly sweet to see Gagne win his first Cup as his career is starting to wind down.
Congratulations also are in order for general manager Dean Lombardi, formerly with the Flyers as a scout and assistant to general manager Paul Holmgren, former Flyers goalie and executive Ron Hextall and former Flyers player and coach John Stevens. Hextall is an assistant general manager for the Kings; Stevens is an assistant coach.
CRYSTAL BALL: I can finally pat myself on the back for correctly picking the Kings before the season – and sticking with them throughout the playoffs – to win the Stanley Cup. My preseason comment that my hesitation in picking the Kings was that Terry Murray was their coach – Murray was fired during the season – adds even more credibility to my prediction.
My preseason pick to win the NBA title, the Oklahoma Thunder, isn’t faring as well. As I write this column, the Thunder are trailing the Heat, 3-1, in the NBA Finals.
DRAFT BOARD: The Kings won the Cup with four former Flyers first-round draft picks (Carter, Richards, Gagne, Williams), which demonstrates the importance of acquiring talent through the draft. The NHL draft takes place Friday and Saturday, with the Flyers having the 20th overall pick.
The Flyers also have picks in the third, fourth, fifth and seventh rounds. As always, don’t be surprised if the aggressive Flyers make a trade during the draft.
WHO’S IN CHARGE? The NBA draft is next week (June 28), yet the Sixers have not hired a new team president/general manager. Rod Thorn is stepping/being pushed aside, which leaves a question about who will be responsible for making the Sixers’ draft selections.
Will it be head coach Doug Collins? Will Thorn still have an active role? For a team with a lot of potential changes this offseason, it’s important that the Sixers clearly have a hierarchy in place with regard to making decisions that could make a huge impact on the future of this franchise.
GODFATHERS OF SOUL: Congratulations to the Philadelphia Soul (11-3), who clinched homefield advantage throughout the Arena Football League playoffs until the Arena Bowl. The Soul still have a few regular-season home games remaining, including Sunday against the Pittsburgh Power.
The only thing that appeared as if it could derail the Soul was a potential lockout of players due to a labor dispute. But the AFL and the players union reached an agreement last weekend, averting a labor stoppage.
Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for more than 23 years, would be thrilled to struggle on the golf course the way Tiger Woods is doing.