I don’t know exactly why, but sports journalists lose their capacity for critical analysis when it comes to Tiger Woods. In analyzing and commenting on the state of his game over the last three years, they have largely capitulated to the terms set by Woods himself. As I’ve said before, athletes usually have no ability for honest self-assessment.
Woods talks regularly about how he’s “almost back.” He imagines he’s on a trajectory to the level of play he demonstrated a little over a decade ago. For some reason, sportswriters adopt the terms set by Woods while keeping straight faces. Would they do the same if it were Jerry Rice or Pete Sampras?
There are several reasons why Woods is not “almost back” and probably will never again replicate that level of play. I won’t trot them out today, but I’m just amazed that Woods has so intimidated sportswriters over the years that they, like Woods, have lost the ability to critique his game honestly (Brandel Chamblee and Johnny Miller are refreshing exceptions).
For today, however, I’ll just mention that his withdrawal from the WGC-Cadillac Championship yesterday reminded me of the comment that was made by either Jack Nicklaus or the great golf writer, Dan Jenkins, about fifteen years ago: the only things that will prevent Woods from breaking Nicklaus’s record of 18 major championships are family distractions and injuries.