The world's top ranked player misses a cut at a prestigious tournament, fan favorites Ricky Fowler and Phil Mickelson blow final round leads in consecutive weeks and the previous next big thing, Rory McIlroy is once again trying to find his consistency. Last I heard, Tiger Woods was playing with his kids in Florida and hiding in football luxury suites, far removed from the lush landscapes where he once dominated his sport. Maybe he and Peyton Manning are sitting around drinking beer, lamenting injuries and falls from grace, discussing the pros and cons of calling it quits. 2007 began with Manning leading the Colts to a Super Bowl title and ended with Tiger Woods winning seven times on tour, including the PGA Championship (his 13th and next to last major), FedEx Cup Championship and PGA Tour Player of the Year. Now Woods is a Ryder Cup assistant captain, all but forgotten as the 2016 season ends it's run on the wast coast and heads to Florida in preparation for the first major of the year at Augusta, and Peyton Manning is probably headed into retirement after a Super Bowl victory and revelations of a potentially ugly episode most likely attributed to the stupidity of youth.
Jordan Spieth, the golden boy of the last couple of seasons, seems to be struggling to adjust to the fame and fortune that have come his way. Is he the next Tiger Woods? Hardly. Catch this stat: in almost twenty years on tour, Woods has missed fifteen cuts, with many of those coming in the last few years as he's battled back from injury. Spieth, at the rip old age of 23, has already failed to qualify for the weekend 13 times. What always set Tiger Woods apart from his peers, if you could call them that, was his ability to grind out a good score even if he wasn't playing at his best. That trait contributed greatly to his unbelievable record of making cuts. Do I sound like I believe the players of today don't share the same trait? I hope so, because the money that is generated, partially due to the popularity of the game that can be attributed to Woods, has made the top professional golfers a little soft and seemingly spoiled. Spieth, in a desire to capitalize on his popularity, went globe trotting this past winter and while his bank account is probably pretty hefty, his game seems to have suffered a bit. Look, I'm not begrudging Spieth, or for that matter McIlroy, Watson, Fowler, Day, Dustin Johnson or any other good players from cashing in. But what most of them don't do enough of to win me over is to compete and win.
It's easy to forget that even before Tiger Woods turned pro, he won six consecutive USGA titles, all in match play. Beginning with the 1991 U.S. Junior Amateur, he won 36 consecutive matches, an unbelievably impressive feat. No one before him or since has come close to that kind of dominance. I believe that his match play mentality is what made him such a fierce competitor and enabled him to continue to stay focused even when he wasn't at his best. If it appears that I'm a big fan of Woods, it's because I am and have been for almost twenty-five years. Can any of the players of today aspire to the kind of career he had? Perhaps, but only if they stay laser focused on their game and on winning tournaments. From 1997 to 2008 (12 seasons), Woods won fourteen majors, ten player of the year awards and eight Vardon Trophies for the low scoring average. That's an incredible run that I just don't see being duplicated anytime soon. It's bad enough that football season is over, but I don't even get to look forward to turning to Tiger Woods to fill the gap between February and September.