Toothless Tiger is just a sideshow

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 August, 2011, 12:00am


Taking a poke at Tiger Woods at this point is like picking low lying fruit. I am not even talking about the golfer here, either. As a human being he seems completely out of sorts and while I truly want to say who cares, somebody clearly does. During last week's highly entertaining PGA Championship the announcers could not stop playing amateur shrink with Woods. It was frankly embarrassing to hear the lengths they went to in order to keep Tiger relevant, something his golf game is no longer capable of.

Woods missed the cut by six strokes and finished 118th, tied with the likes of Raphael Jacquelin, Jamie Donaldson and Robert McClellan. Earlier in the week he was heard dismissively muttering after a press conference, 'That's why you guys listen and I play.' And what the media were subsequently listening to from Woods was the sounds of silence as he was nowhere to be found during weekend play.

The man has become nothing more than a sideshow - granted, an enormously distracting one that devours attention, but a sideshow nonetheless. If you like to think of yourself as a golf fan, then Tiger should mean little to you right now. He is not one of the world's best players, not even close. Of course, we all know what he used to be but I am far more intoxicated by the most intriguing collection of fearless and swashbuckling young players the game has ever seen.

Coming into the final major of the season we had already seen a 26-year-old from South Africa named Charl Schwartzel birdie the last four holes of the Masters to win his first green jacket. A few months later, Northern Ireland's 22-year-old Rory McIlroy shot 16 under par to blow away the field at the US Open while another wunderkind, Australia's 23-year-old Jason Day, finished second at both tournaments. As the PGA rolled around the big question should have been: Which other young star will emerge?

But the sideshow still needed to be milked so all the talk was not only about Tiger but his former caddie as well.

Steve Williams as a sympathetic victim is going to take some getting used to, at least in these quarters. The man who carried Tiger's bag for 13 of his 14 major championships did so in the most brusque and seemingly joyless way. Recently relieved of his duties by Woods, he fortuitously found himself on Adam Scott's bag just in time for that career underachiever to win his biggest title at the Bridgestone Championship one week before the PGA.

In all the years I have been watching golf I do not remember a caddie being interviewed after his man won a title. But Stevie has to be the most famous caddie ever. He's certainly the richest, so sticking a microphone in his face made sense to someone and he didn't disappoint.

He said this was the greatest victory he had ever had and a five-alarm media blitz was now in full swing. Pundits were falling all over each other condemning Williams for his classless comments when he should have been talking up his guy's big win.

A few days later he apologised and I have no doubt it was because of all those sports columnists who chided him. I am not passing judgment on you, Stevie, because like I said before, I am just a golf fan here. All I want is to see kids like Keegan Bradley play.

The list of sports stars from Vermont - the picturesque northeast state of roughly 600,000 - is not long. After his performance at the PGA Championship, the 25-year-old Bradley now seems to be at the top of the queue. Playing in his first major championship, Bradley outduelled Jason Dufner in a play-off for a most unlikely victory. With booming drives and clutch putts, the kid was a joy to watch.

You have to figure that with the likes of the charismatic Bradley, McIlroy, Schwartzel and Day, the future of golf is bright. And maybe it is an industry that was built squarely on the back of Woods' phenomenal popularity, but call us when you can keep up, Tiger.

Not only is the sideshow battling the tabloids, stray drives, a wobbly putter and a number of niggling injuries, he is trying to get his game back at a time when the competition has never been deeper. Woods on his best day might be able to outduel one or two of the young guns. But I see little chance of him doing it regularly against a field full of them.

Theories abound on why Tiger the golfer is doomed to insignificance - everything from no longer being on steroids to the negative karma of being the worst tipper in the world. But none of that matters to me because I am a golf fan and it's not for me to bury Tiger Woods' career.

I will leave that entirely up to him because I merely listen. He plays.