07/21/10 — Stevens: Tiger just isn't Tiger now

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Stevens: Tiger just isn't Tiger now

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on July 21, 2010 1:46 PM

The British Open may have been held at St. Andrews' Old Course last week, but the Tiger Woods who showed up was anything but the old Tiger.

At a venue that Woods has admits he loves, the world's No. 1 player, accustomed to winning tournaments by double digits, lost by 13 strokes. He finished a full six strokes out of second places and left Scotland tied for 23rd overall. It was his worst finish in a major since tying for 24th at the 2004 PGA Championship.

A year ago, envisioning Woods going 0-for-3 at St. Andrews, Augusta National and Pebble Beach (three venues where he's won seven of his 14 majors) was unfathomable.

Tiger is winless in seven starts in 2010 -- his longest stretch into a PGA Tour season without a win since 1998.

Woods has now gone nine majors -- two of which he did not play thanks to injury -- without winning. It is his longest stretch without a major victory since he underwent swing changes in 2003 and '04.

Even a change of putters, a switch Woods hasn't made in 11 years, didn't pan out. Tiger needed 99 putts to get through the first three rounds at St. Andrews before reverting back to the Scotty Cameron model on Sunday that he's more accustomed to using.

Woods ended the 2009 season tied for 22nd on the PGA Tour in putts per round, but currently isn't in the top-100 in that same category.

Tiger was at the top of every PGA statistical category imaginable in 2009. He led the tour in money, scoring average, birdie average, top-10 finishes, top-3 finishes and average finish.

Currently, Woods doesn't lead the PGA Tour in a single statistical category.

As much as Tiger Woods needs golf as an escape from what's been a difficult year off the golf course, golf needs Tiger Woods.

Since 1997, each of golf's four major tournaments have seen their television ratings drop nearly two points when Woods doesn't win.

ESPN earned a preliminary television rating of 2.1 on Sunday as Louis Oosthuizen pulled away from the field. It was the lowest rating for the final round in the tournament's history.

Last year's final round attracted roughly 5.55 million U.S. Households while Sunday's final round garnered about 2.97 million households.

Summer will soon fade to fall and college football along with the NFL will become the center of the American sports landscape.

Without Tiger Woods winning, golf will venture down the same dangerous path tennis has stumbled. It, too, will become a sport without a dominant American male athlete and will struggle to generate interest let alone television ratings.

In the same way the NFL thrives when the New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys are successful or when college basketball needs Duke and North Carolina at the top, golf needs Tiger Woods to win, and win now.