SOMEONE ASKED me what it's like to have a major championship knowing that
won't be around. "Refreshing," I said. I was kidding, but it is a little strange to go into a pair of majors without the No. 1 player in the world. It'll be like the Players Championship—we'll end up with
[below, left] having to fend off
Normally you can't help thinking, Gee, is Tiger going to win another major and get closer to the record? Now you go, Wait a minute, he's not here. It's kind of a surprise. It has to open the eyes of the other top players. They have to think: I have a couple of freebies here. Maybe I can take one of them.
Asterisks won't be necessary for the winners, although the first thing the press will ask is, "What does it feel like to win a major that Tiger didn't play in?" And whether you admit it or not, you'll always wonder if you would've won had Tiger been in the field. C'mon, the guy won the U.S. Open on one good leg—a testament to his fitness.
What has become glaringly obvious is that the rest of us have to step up. Tiger is phenomenal, the best ever, but nobody is challenging him. The only players who push Tiger in majors are guys like
Bob May, Chris DiMarco
—guys with nothing to lose. The players whom you'd expect to be Tiger's biggest challengers either don't have the game or the guts.
I don't think players like
[below] are necessarily past their prime. It's just that, like all the challengers, they have flaws. Ernie keeps changing swing coaches and mental coaches and caddies—he's making more changes than Hank Steinbrenner at the trading deadline. Putting is a big issue for Vijay. The same goes for Sergio. He had one good putting week, at the Players. But I'm not convinced that he's rolling the ball that much better than he did before.
shows flashes of greatness, but he's still inexperienced. And then there's
, who is a frequent victim of overthinking. To put it another way: Phil is a victim of simply being Phil. The other players on Tour know what I mean.
has a lot of talent, but nobody considers him Tiger's major challenger.
Tiger is the only guy who doesn't have a weakness. As bad as Tiger's driving has sometimes been, his putting and the rest of his game are so good that he can make up for it. The challengers can't overcome their weaknesses.
There's not one guy who can say, "Yeah, Tiger is good, but damn it, I'm just as good, and I'm willing to work just as hard." And it's not only the veteran players. I don't think there's anyone out here under 30 willing to work as hard as Tiger. If that's not enough, Tiger says he sleeps only four or five hours a night. That makes his day three hours longer than ours—three more hours to work out, practice, whatever. Nobody is wired like Tiger.
TESTY ON TESTING?
I was surprised that Tiger's tournament, the AT&T National [box, G6], had such a weak field.
[10th] were the highest-ranked players, and AT&T had to go far down the list to fill the 120-man field. With Tiger as the host and a major-caliber course like Congressional as the venue, you would think that the AT&T would've attracted a top field. The fact is, the Buick Open the week before probably had a stronger field. I don't get it.
I'm sure the weak field had nothing to do with the start of random drug testing. On Wednesday at the AT&T, commissioner
[right] and some of his cronies were tested. Do we care if they're on marijuana or something? (Although that might explain a few of their decisions.) Seriously, why are we testing our officials, and who's paying for their tests? I thought drug testing was for the players. Do they test the coaches at the Olympics? I don't know. Maybe our officials were trying to make a statement, but to me it was overkill.