Spring truly arrives tomorrow morning. When the first drives are unleashed at Augusta National, when the Masters begins, that's when Spring officially begins. The field will be full of past champions, those who wish to be champions, and some just happy to be among them. On Sunday we will have the 2015 Masters winner presented his green jacket. Bubba wants to repeat, Rory wants to complete the grand slam, and DJ and Rickie are chomping at the bit. Tiger Woods will be playing too, but it doesn't matter anymore. Tiger Woods doesn't matter anymore. He has become a cautionary tale, the living embodiment of Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days." Tiger Woods is a shoulda-been.
Tiger's stunning fall to irrelevance began not with his very public infidelities, but with the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazeltine. On that Sunday, Tiger had the 54 hole lead, a lead he had never previously lost. He was Mike Tyson, winning by both skill and reputation. Unfortunately for Tiger that day, he met his Buster Douglas in the form of YE Yang. Yang did what no mortal golfer had done before - he bested Tiger Woods not only on the last day of a tournament, but on the last day of a major! I will never forget the image of Yang holding his golf bag over his head in triumph, arms pumping as if he were hoisting a championship belt. From that day until this, Tiger Woods has never been the same.
It would be easy to blame Tiger's slide on his famous, and numerous, infidelities. Those obviously did him no favors. I feel, however, he increased those indiscretions and worried less about the repercussions only after he lost to Yang, as if to prove that he could still be champion at something. He had to recover his perceived lost manhood. This is unfortunate. Tiger didn't lose any manhood, he simply lost a tournament, as did thousands before him. The death of Earl Woods in 2006 deeply affected Tiger as well, but he was able to channel those feelings of loss into an incredible run of golf never seen before or since. Tiger won all four majors in the years following Earl's death, to add to the majors he won before. Tiger had a great swing coach in Hank Haney, he had a loving wife in Elin, and it seemed as though the sky was the limit.
Tiger hasn't won a major since 2008. That's a seven year drought. He has changed his swing coach multiple times, most famously parting ways with Haney, until most recently settling on Chris Como. It's been said that Tiger now has the yips, that he is unable to play his chips well and that's affecting his game too. Some say he can't hit his driver, others say his putting is off. All I know is that something is wrong with Tiger, and it has been for a very long time.
There will be no more majors for Tiger Woods. He will not be Jack Nicklaus winning a final green jacket at the age of 46. He is not ranked among the top 100 golfers in the world. He is just a name now, still able to draw followers wherever he goes and whenever he plays. He's Pete Rose, signing autographs at the brew pub down the street from the Baseball Hall of Fame. He's the former high school quarterback, wondering where it all went while sitting on a bar stool.
Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer I have ever seen. He could hit a ton, he had a deft touch around the green, and his putting was true. The PGA even had to adjust the length of courses to accommodate his prowess. From 1997 to 2009, Tiger drew more fan interest to golf than anyone had ever done, including Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicholas, and Gary Player. However, he is no longer the only belle at the ball. Rory McElroy, Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson, Adam Scott, Dustin Johnson, Jimmy Walker, Justin Rose, Matt Kuchar, these are the faces of golf today. These players are the favorites to win tournaments and majors nowadays. When Tiger joined the tour, he was the most exciting golfer since Seve Ballesteros. It's a shame he has become a punchline.
Tiger Woods doesn't matter anymore. And that's just about the worst thing anyone can say about him.