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Where have you gone, Tiger Woods?

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Tiger Woods shot a career best, final round 62 at the Honda Classic and I didn’t see a single shot.  In fact, I didn’t pay attention to any part of the four-day tournament.

I didn’t check ESPN every fifteen minutes to chart Woods’ progress.  I didn’t go online to see where his name fell in relation to the leader board.  I didn’t even check the app on my phone for a shot-by-shot update. For the first time since Woods’ professional golf debut in the fall of 1996, I completely ignored him.Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

This is no small feat because his play has meant more to me than any athlete I have ever seen.  I think that last statement suggests my love of Tiger’s career is unhealthy. But I don’t mind admitting it: I really miss Tiger Woods.  

I share all this with you not because I want you to know I may need professional help.  I am telling you this because I’ve come to realize Woods’ supremacy made my sports world better. And now that he’s just another top-20 finisher with a permanent limp, I’m lost.

Babe Ruth is a legend I’ve only heard and read about. Muhammad Ali is ‘The Greatest’ and I’ve lived through some of his legendary bouts.  However, I didn’t truly understand or appreciate his journey until I became an adult, long after he retired.  

Conversely, I followed Michael Jordan’s career closely but I spent more time hoping he failed than appreciating his greatness. And even though I understood the historical significance of his miraculous feats (like the 63 he scored at Boston Garden) I could never really cheer for him.  Of course, the Bulls actually lost that game, but why taint his achievement with details?  

Then along came Woods and I knew this was my chance to have a sports experience similar to that of my grandfather and father’s generations. But Woods has ruined things for me and the rest of my contemporaries. Now, he plays more like Davis Love then the greatest golfer who ever lived.     

They say all that is old will be new again, and the PGA Tour is no exception.  It has returned to an uninspiring and familiar place.  It is once again about a group of rich, mostly privileged guys who generally act and play the same way.  Sure, there are far fewer F-bombs and fiery gesticulations nowadays but that, along with his dominance, is why I want Woods back.    

After his epic U.S. Open win at Torrey Pines in 2008, Woods’ place on the Mt. Rushmore of professional athletes seemed certain.  It didn’t matter that he never challenged authority like Ali or related to the masses like Ruth.  He even seemed less personable than Jordan. But the way he wielded a golf club made his personality shortcomings irrelevant.  

Woods’ career should have been something remarkable, something never before seen and surely never to be repeated.  But his inability to manage his home and his 19th holes changed everything.  

His putter has betrayed him and everyone who has made money from his career is so grateful they throw public barbs at him whenever possible.
 
I long for the days when Woods started a final round with a three shot lead and eventually won by six.  But what really makes this so strange is I can’t figure out why his more recent efforts spoil my enjoyment of other sports. What do his meltdowns—like the one he just experienced at this year’s Pebble Beach National Pro-Am—have to do with the Eagles, Sixers and the rest?  

I plan to continue my boycott of professional golf until after he wins again because it’s just too painful to watch him lose.  I feel cheated and whether you like Woods or not, you should feel the same way.  

When Tiger Woods was winning all was right with my sports world.  Now that he’s just a regular touring pro, my mood is off.

I want my legend back. 

Earl Myers is a freelance writer from the Philadelphia area.  He closely follows North America's four major sports leagues but just about any sporting event gets his attention.  His goal is to provoke a little thought in his readers.

Contact Earl at emyersiii@gmail.com

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Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images