By Daniel I. Dorfman–
Eras end. Chicago will be under the reign of a new mayor next month, daytime TV will soon be losing its undisputed queen and Tiger Woods has moved into the afterthought category.
Despite a yearning from his fans, the PGA and more than anyone else the TV executives, it appears far-fetched right now the Tiger that dominated the golf world for a decade will ever return. We only needed to watch the final round of the Masters to provide such evidence.
There has been some chatter Woods’ 31 on the front nine was a signal to the rest of the field and the golf world in general that he is getting close to returning to the form that made him the most famous athlete in sports.
His deft shot-making came hand-in-hand with the obligatory roars from the crowd at Augusta National. The red shirt and fist pumps made it all look the part of just a few years ago, but this time Woods could not deliver. True, even at the height of his game, Woods has never come from behind to win a major like he was being asked to do on Sunday, but it is doubtful the Tiger-in-his-prime would have had such a lackluster finish.
A three putt at 12 on Sunday that took the starch out of his charge and his missed short putts at 15 and 16 would have been stunning at one time, but for Tiger circa 2011, they really weren’t.
Moreover, it was also striking to see how the other golfers, possibly with the exception of Rory McIlroy, didn’t seem to get scared when Woods was making his run. But was McIlroy’s 80 tied to Woods or just the nerves of a 21-year-old? Probably more the latter than the former.
But aside from McIlroy, who had the most painful Masters collapse since Greg Norman 15 years ago, everyone seemed calm in spite of Tiger’s charge. Eventual champion Charl Schwarzel (the meeting of the people who had actually heard of Schwarzel before this weekend is scheduled for the nearest broom closet) and the others calmly went about their business and Tiger faded into non-factor status down the stretch.
Yes it is easy to point to the Thanksgiving car accident of 2009 and say that is where everything turned around for Woods but I still wonder about the reconstructive knee surgery he had in 2008. Has he ever really returned from that? Not really. As he gets older it really is hard to believe that he will be able to turn back the clock and be anywhere near the player he once was. A grimace after his tee shot on 18 only added to that doubt.
Finishing tied for third at the Masters indicates Woods will still be a factor at times and he is nowhere near the embarrassing levels of Willie Mays with the New York Mets or Ken Griffey Jr. with the White Sox. But similar to what has been going on with Roger Federer in tennis; an era has come to an end. Tiger is still going to demand attention at every golf tournament and he has earned that both in a good and the TMZ sense, but when the leader board pops up on a TV screen, it is now folly to absolutely expect him to see him on it.
The names of Schwarzel and McIlroy may lack the excitement of Woods, but now without any doubt, the PGA and golf fans should realize it is their time and not Tiger’s.
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Daniel I. Dorfman is a local freelance writer who has written and reported for the New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer and the Boston Globe among many other nationally prominent broadcast, online and print media organizations. He is also a researcher for 670 The Score. You can follow him on Twitter @DanDorfman To read more of Daniel’s blogs click here.