Even at his worst, Tiger Woods has never looked this bad. It was only a month ago that Woods returned to golf with a performance that satisfied everyone but him. He finished in a share of fourth place in the Masters, his first competition in five months. And while his personal life was a mess, it appeared his golf game was not about to suffer.
So much has changed in such a short time. Woods looked lost on the golf course in missing the cut at Quail Hollow last week. He looked even more distant as he sat in front of his locker on Sunday at TPC Sawgrass with his head bowed. He failed to finish that tournament because of a sore neck. When he looked up to take a few questions, Woods leaned against his locker with his eyes closed as if he were not listening. At one point, he slammed his shoe to the floor.
Three months ago in the same clubhouse at Sawgrass, Woods appeared in public for the first time to read a statement about the extramarital affairs that shattered his image and his family. He wore a dark suit then. This time, he was in his Sunday red shirt. In both cases, his aura of invincibility was missing. It is too early to judge how Woods will recover from this scandal, and it does not help that Woods is no more forthcoming about his game or his health than he was even in good times.
He has received warm receptions, though the praise is not universal. One woman in Charlotte, North Carolina, gave a thumbs-down when Woods walked by on his way to the tee. The low point might have come Saturday, when a young boy with an autograph from Phil Mickelson yelled out to Woods, "Tiger, say so long to No 1. Kiss it goodbye." Mickelson, who could have replaced Woods at No. 1 with a victory Sunday, was standing only a few feet away.
"He got heckled by a seven-year-old," Paul Goydos said with wonder. "That's brutal. He's got to get used to that. He's got a lot on his head and the game is hard. And it's hard for everybody. He made it look so easy, so when he's not making it look easy, we wonder what's wrong." * AP