Has Tiger lost his bite?

Ronnie O’Sullivan was the best player in his sport for over a decade, before people doubted him as they saw his form deteriorate. He has since come back and is still, on his day, the best player, winning major titles and thrilling snooker fans around the world. Roger Federer has had huge troubles with injuries, but he too, has returned, and his win in last month’s Australian Open is testament to his determination to still be classed as the best in the world of tennis. Tiger Woods, again, is another example of a former world number one who has had many doubters. Yet he, unlike the previous two examples, has not experienced a renaissance in his form, and it seems that he may never will.

It is now nine years since his last major win; eleven years since he managed to win two major titles in the same season and seventeen years since he, magnificently, won three out of the four major titles, finishing fifth in the other, cementing himself into the record books as a golfing legend. He is, undoubtedly, one of the best golfers of all time, and for many, he will always be the number one. But that is because of his illustrious history, and not his current form

Tiger did not play a part in any of the major events last year. Five out of the last six he has played in, he has failed to make the cut. The 14 time major title winner, in all likelihood, will not be adding any more to his name. There is a strong argument, given this dismal record, that he should just leave the game he conquered and retire. Golf, after all, is currently gifted with many supremely talented players; Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy and Henrik Stenson are just three examples. Woods has never recovered since his well-documented personal troubles that came to light in 2009. Pulling out of last week’s Dubai Desert Classic with a back spasm does nothing for his form, confidence or ranking.  He has only featured in three tournaments since the major injury he endured that kept him away from the golf courses for over a year before his recent comeback.

His world ranking of 674 shows just how far his form has deteriorated (though not playing for 15 months naturally has an impact too). Yet, at the end of 2013, he was still, despite the lack of major titles, ranked world number one. Since then, every year has seen a massive decline; 2014 he was number 32, 2015 he was 416, and, at the end of last year, he was placed 652. The question is, if his form doesn’t improve recently, will his world ranking number be four digits? If so, surely he has to, if he isn’t already, think long and hard about his future in the game.

It is sad seeing Tiger like this. Sport should always showcase the best of a player’s unique talents. And not many golf players are as uniquely, freakishly, talented as Mr. Woods. He is also very honest about his future prospects, admitting that he will never feel great, due in part to his three back surgeries and four back operations. Should Tiger Woods give up the game he helped to transform? For a generation of golf fans he was the face of the sport, the main spectacle, the man who did more than anyone to draw fans in. But at the moment, he is the lonely one, the injured one, the forgotten one. He won’t want this to be his legacy.

James Felton

Featured Image: Patrick Smith/Getty Images 

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