And now...Leaving Aside the Zipper-Melting Swedish Nanny, 10 Reasons Why It Kinda Sucks to Be Tiger Woods Right Now:
1. He's losing majors.
With his nowhere U.S. Open finish, Woods hasn't contended on a Sunday back nine since March. That was a war and a half ago. For the first time in four years his famous coffee table doesn't hold a single major trophy. This was his worst finish in the U.S. Open (20th) as a pro. This year's Masters (15th) was his second worst as a pro, and the 2002 British Open (28th) was his worst as a pro. And look who he's losing majors to! A cellphone salesman ( Rich Beem), a Canadian lefty ( Mike Weir) and a man whose swing is a one-man game of Twister ( Jim Furyk). Who woulda thunk Fluff (now Furyk's caddie) would win a major this year before Tiger did?
2. His knee still hurts.
Despite surgery in the off-season, Woods said on Sunday in an unusually candid locker-room session, "I don't go as hard [at my swing] as I used to." He sometimes feels pain in his left knee when he swings hard. It's why he hasn't played as much (this year Furyk has played 15 Tour events to Woods's eight) or practiced as much as he usually does. "I can't stay out there [practicing] for four or five hours like I used to." Woods thus becomes the first man to play more golf in ads than in tournaments.
3. Golf is too dependent on him.
The game needs to get into a 12-step de-Tiger clinic. Television ratings are halved when he's not playing. Tournament directors weep when he doesn't show up. Nike's entire golf line depends on his playing well. TV has got the worst case of the Tigers. On Sunday, for example, when Woods was 13 shots behind Furyk, NBC showed his every shot on the par-3 17th. And now, on videotape, Furyk holes out from the fairway!
4. Godzilla is getting punked off the tee.
Do you realize that Woods ranks 30th in driving distance on Tour? Either he's teeing off with a spatula, or something stinks on Tour. Woods thinks players are using illegally hot drivers with faces like trampolines. "I favor testing every [player's driver] every day," he says. Uh, when you're done with golf, can you start on baseball?
5. Everybody wants him to walk on water hazards.
"People expect every shot Tiger hits to be a miracle shot, the next one more amazing than the last," says the player who knows him best, neighbor and fellow Tour pro Mark O'Meara. "That's got to be hard."
6. He may have already peaked.
Not that it was a bad peak. The man won four straight majors between June 2000 and April '01. The further we get from that run, the more unthinkable it seems. "There are some things I don't do as well as I did in 2000," he admits, "but there are some things I do better." Like, suddenly, perspective.
7. He's stuck trying to live up to an impossible standard—himself.
Once, during one of his pupil-popping streaks, a TV commentator said, "This young man might win every tournament he ever enters." Some people believed it, but Woods wasn't one of them. "Some of the good shots I hit weren't as great as you guys made them out to be," he said. "And the poor shots weren't as poor as you said. When I win, it's, 'Oh, he can never lose.' And then I don't wan a couple, and it's, 'Are you in a slump?' " Just for the record, when Jack Nicklaus was Tiger's age, 27, he started a run of 12 majors without a win. It didn't make Jack a dull boy. He went on to claim 11 more.
8. He's not the Kid anymore.
For the first time Woods can talk about marriage and a family without getting a facial tic. "I can definitely see myself there someday," he said. "I'm looking forward to it." Actually, this is a good thing—the first sign that he doesn't want to be the center of his world forever. "Let's face it," Woods said, "when it comes right down to it, your success is minuscule compared to the success of your kids." And when is Project Pop planned? "I'll let you know."
9. A 63-year-old man is looking tougher all of a sudden.
That would be J.W Nicklaus, whose 18 professional majors seem a little more Everestish, no?