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Some odd thing was going on as he played on Saturday. He did seem to be approaching the round in an uncharacteristic way. He looked almost detached. Now and again he stared out at the churning ocean. He stayed last week on his yacht, Privacy, and he clearly did come to shore on Saturday with some sort of different approach. But not relaxed.
The guy must get sick of hearing the word major. Major, major, major. But it's a conversation of his own making. He set the bar higher than anyone ever has. Big Jack had 18 majors, and Tiger was going to first match and then pass. He has been stuck at 14 for four years and two months.
It will only get harder and more intense. He used to win majors by simply playing golf. His golf was so much better than everyone else's that he didn't have to do anything really special to win majors. Now his golf is not as good and others are better and he's searching for a new approach. In the meantime the poor bastard must explain his longest 0-fer again and again.
He is a master at changing the story. The best pols have nothing on him. He has explained this barren period by way of his injuries, his swing changes, his lack of "reps," his hit-and-miss schedule. And, most recently and most oddly, a faulty game plan, one that had him playing too relaxed. In the company of noted fellow hard-ass Vijay Singh, that seemed particularly unlikely.
On Sunday, Woods played a solid round of golf, but one of his playing partners, Peter Hanson of Denmark, noticed that "his shoulders kind of sagged when he missed that birdie putt on 12," a miss from four feet that really meant his wait for next year had begun.
In victory Rory McIlroy said he noticed that Tiger's name was not on the leader board as he made his way around Kiawah in 66 shots. McIlroy answered a handful of questions that dealt with Tiger and the pace at which young Tiger won majors, how Tiger handled his success. Woods answered them too. He said, "We've always known that Rory has all the talent in the world." Woods knows that talent enough is not enough. That's why he's at 14. That's why, surely, No. 15 will come, sooner or later.
And on the chance that he never does get to 15, Woods will still be a legend in the game, just as Nicklaus is. People are saying now that Tiger is simply another very good player. Tiger will never be simply another very good player, even when he's ranked 50th in the world. But the majors are in his head now in a way they've never been before. And there's likely nobody in the world who can help him figure out how to win another one except himself, or maybe Big Jack.
Somebody asked Woods on Sunday night where his Saturday mental approach came from. "I don't know," he said. "It was a bad move on my part."
His playing partner had a different feeling about Woods's golf on Saturday. Singh didn't see a player who was too relaxed, who was too consumed with, as Tiger said, trying "to enjoy the process of it." No, Singh saw it a different way. He said, "Maybe he was trying too hard."