Tiger Woods’ PGA Championship collapse sets up pivotal 2010

Even the casual weekend hacker – a category in which I unabashedly fall – tunes in to watch the final round of a major tournament, particularly when there’s a certain muscle-bound guy in a red shirt at the top of the leaderboard. Whether you think Tiger Woods is the greatest thing to ever happen to golf, think too much of a sport is wrapped up in one guy or fall somewhere in between, it’s impossible to deny he is a drawing card. That card was easily and happily played by CBS on Sunday in the final round of the PGA Championship as Woods was on the verge of his 15th major title. The victory – a foregone conclusion considering he had never lost a major with a lead of two strokes or more – would put him just three shy of the epic 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus. But then, repeatedly on the front nine, Woods began missing putt after putt after putt. And it didn’t end there, plaguing him throughout the final round. The short game at windy Hazeltine National Golf Club at times looked reminiscent of any Saturday at a public course with random guys missing random taps all over the place. Honestly, it was shocking, and that should take nothing away from South Korean Y.E. Yang. Yang made his blunders, blasting shots into the gallery, rough and bunkers, but recovered better than Woods and critically sunk the putts he needed. The impact of the loss has its most profound on what happens next year in golf’s four majors. It’s easy to forget Woods is still coming off the legendary performance where he essentially won the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg and ended his season thereafter with surgery. Woods didn’t offer any lingering effects of his injury as an excuse for Sunday’s fade or failing to make the cut at last month’s British Open. Athletes almost universally have a better year the second year after a major procedure as they mentally and physiologically become adjusted to subtle differences in their bodies. To proclaim the Tiger Era dead and buried after he had a major-free 2009 would be short-sighted. Barring unforeseen circumstances Woods will undoubtedly be the odds-on favorite at The Masters next April and every other tournament in between. If there are longer term effects of the injury that would point toward a legitimate downward trend in his productivity, it stands to reason it would come in 2010. Gambling that this is the beginning of the end of Woods’ stand astride the top of the golf world – particularly considering he dusted the field just one week earlier at a World Golf Championships event – is a longshot. Links: Yang adds name to list of Tiger slayers: http://sports.espn.go.com/golf/pgachampionship09/columns/story?columnist=harig_bob&id=4397495 2009 World Golf Championships-Bridgestone: http://www.pgatour.com/2009/tournaments/r476/08/09/notebook_round4/

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