Dear Eldrick Woods:
Yeah, I went there. I can't honestly call you "Tiger" with a straight face anymore. The way you've been playing golf doesn't bring to mind a ferocious feline, but it used to. Whether or not you want to admit it to yourself (and the rest of the world), you are in a slump. As a longtime fan of yours, I felt compelled to write this letter to you when I saw that you dropped out of this weekend's 84 Lumber tournament in Farmington, Pa. I'm sure the tournament organizers and the 80,000 or so fans who bought a ticket after you announced you intended to play a few weeks back may understand that after the humiliating Ryder Cup you were "exhausted."
Quick question: If you were too exhausted to play in the tournament, how did you find the energy to go on a media blitz for your new video game? You did Leno, Regis, SportsCenter and a few others, but you couldn't fulfill your commitment to play at the 84 Lumber? I suppose all's well that ends well; those who did attend the tournament got to see the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world do what he did so well this year: win tournaments. Remember when you were the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world? Now it's Vijay Singh. He practices a lot.
I don't want to appear like I'm kicking you while you're down, Eldrick. I know your father Earl is ailing right now, and I want to offer my sincere sympathy. I know Earl taught you a lot about being the best golfer and man you can be. Is he happy with your performance on tour this year? I know you keep saying how you're not in a slump, but Eldrick, you only won one event on tour! You're zero for the last eight majors! It's not just Phil Mickelson who's winning these majors either. Unheard-of golfers like Weir, Curtis and Toms are hoisting trophies that should belong to you. That intimidation factor that used to be in the air on Sundays has subsided. No longer do fellow PGA golfers shudder when thinking about holding you off as you drained long putts, pumped your fist and looked nearly invincible sporting your Sunday red. I really want to know what happened to the Tiger who made me empty my wallet to buy your Nike Gear, your video game and your book (How I Play Golf).
I'm not going to be like every other hack sportswriter and bitter dude in America and blame this on your luscious fiancée, Elin. Sure, she gave you food poisoning before a tournament, but how can anyone think your game has suffered just because you've found your soulmate? I'm sure you spend just as much time practicing your golf swing now as you did before you met Elin, right? It does seem a bit odd to me that you met her through another golfer on tour, Jesper Parnevik. This just screams "setup" to a cynic like me. Think about it: Every other golfer on tour is sick of being your bitch and watching you collect trophies like Courtney Love collects subpoenas. They get Jesper to set you up with his hot Swedish nanny, knowing that she'll dominate your every thought. You and Elin find romantic bliss, and your golf swing goes to hell.
If that theory sounds like it was hatched on The X-Files, you may be right. However, something that could negate the adverse effect that Elin may or may not have on your golf swing would be a swing coach. You had one of those, remember? Why did you fire Butch Harmon, after all? As much as you think you know yourself and your golf swing, how much could it have hurt to let someone else take an objective look at your golf swing? Your DIY approach simply isn't working. Do you really think anyone buys your "I'm just a few steps away from perfection" blather? You used to have the kind of golf swing that made mortal men gaze in wonder. Now you have the kind of swing that makes us wonder what happened to the Tiger we knew and revered. So, I don't understand why you fired him, but I certainly applaud you calling him up a couple of months ago to bury the hatchet. Now all you need to do is put him back on the payroll.
Let's revisit the Ryder Cup for a moment. I hope it's still a painful memory for you. Watching Sergio Garcia do what you used to do had to sting a little bit, right? He had the swagger you used to swag, the confidence you used to exude and ... dare I say it? The eye of the Tiger. Watching those pasty Euros stomp you guys was unsettling, to say the very least. You and Phil Mickelson playing together had the chemistry of David Letterman interviewing Jay Leno. Still, you are two of the best golfers on the planet and you should have performed better. We Americans don't like losing to Europeans in any contest, and watching their squad of golfers completely dismantle you and your cronies sucked out loud.
I admit that this letter may ring empty to you. After all, you're Tiger Freaking Woods and I am a golfer who couldn't break 80 with nine mulligans per side. However, I have studied and rooted for you since you burst upon the scene so many years ago. You made younger people not only care about golf, but respect its traditions and heritage as well. You transcended your sport, made it larger than life and became to golf what your buddy MJ became to basketball. I can't speak for anyone but myself, but I want the old Tiger back. The guy that frustrated and amazed everyone else on tour with his power, accuracy, confidence and ability to clutch victory from the jaws of defeat. I don't know whether the problem is Elin, Butch or simply a change in your demeanor and/or priorities, but you're not the same Tiger Woods you used to be. Bring that guy back and silence your critics, and do it soon. Your legacy depends on it.