Tame Tiger is king of the jungle no more

It is a tired cliche of the Masters at Augusta that the tournament does not start until the back nine holes of the fourth and final round on Sunday. The same could have been said of most major championships until, that is, Tiger Woods took the game by the jugular. When he had the scent of a kill, it was swift, ruthless, painless. The prey, however, are no longer an endangered species.

It is a tired cliche of the Masters at Augusta that the tournament does not start until the back nine holes of the fourth and final round on Sunday. The same could have been said of most major championships until, that is, Tiger Woods took the game by the jugular. When he had the scent of a kill it was swift, ruthless, painless. The prey, however, are no longer an endangered species.

Tiger's aura of invincibility has evaporated almost as dramatically as the mystique surrounding The Open Championship itself. To lift the old silver claret jug on a classic links course, you are supposed to be a seasoned old pro, steeped in the traditions of the game and at one with mother nature. Try telling that to Ben Curtis or Todd Hamilton or other members of the wildebeest herd who have given the food chain an almighty yank.

But the predatory American who is not as much asleep in the jungle as comatose is Woods. This was the ninth major championship in a row that has eluded Woods and, once again yesterday, he left the killing field with barely a whimper. At the age of 28, the world No 1 is bemused, frustrated and forlorn. Still, he is 10 years younger than Hamilton.

Tiger has not scored better than 71 in the last round of the last seven major championships and yesterday he headed south on the leaderboard with a one-over-par 72. That, in the context of the battle hotting up behind him at Royal Troon, was not so much tame as toothless.

"I made a nice start but I was not able to improve," Woods said. "When I started, the wind was blowing pretty hard but then it died down. The course was perfect. It was tough but fair. I played well but I didn't capitalise. I made mistakes and although I didn't make any high numbers, I didn't make enough birdies."

Tiger rarely smiled on the course but he wore a broad grin when he was asked if he was in a slump. "I had a chance and I felt I could have won the tournament or at least got into a play-off," he responded. "Obviously I didn't win and I will have a look at where I went wrong. I only blocked two shots but I wasn't decisive enough. I didn't commit to all the shots."

Since parting company with his coach, Butch Harmon, Tiger's swing is nowhere near the model of style, power and consistency that enabled him to overpower everybody else on the world's greatest courses.

If he admits to not committing fully to every shot, it would belie a lack of confidence. Basically, he no longer knows with the absolute certainty that was once taken for granted where the ball is going.

Reduced, for the most part, to hitting irons off the tee for safety, he can no longer throw caution to the wind and one of his great advantages, smashing the ball further than almost everybody else, has been compromised. As a result, the rest of his game suffers and his competitors breathe easier.

Jos Vanstiphout, the Belgian sports psychologist who massages the mind of Ernie Els, had his task of convincing the South African that Woods was not invincible made considerably easier by the American's demise.

It is estimated that Tiger's income from golf and extra-curricular activities is £32m a year, which begs another question. Once ravenous, how hungry is Tiger Woods? When he was spread-eagling fields with monotonous regularity, it was predicted that it was only a matter of time before he would surpass Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 victories in major championships.

Tiger has stalled on eight and there is no sign of him advancing. It is as if Michael Schumacher was being lapped on a regular basis.

This season Tiger was joint 22nd in the Masters and joint 17th in the US Open. He did not get in a blow. After his 68 in the third round here, his supporters anticipated a charge at the death but it never materialised. Resuming after four under par for the championship, four behind Hamilton, he got to six under with a birdie at the fifth, where he holed from a bunker, and another at the sixth. He went to the turn in 34 and that was the end of that.

Tiger had made no impression whatsoever on Troon's back nine in the first three rounds ­ in 27 holes, he had made a solitary birdie ­ and he floundered again yesterday. He dropped a stroke at the 11th where he hit a wild shot to the right and was fortunate, with gorse to the left, to the right and in front, to find a playable lie which limited the damage to a five. A marshal deep in the undergrowth signalled the location of Tiger's ball with a green flag but he may as well have been hoisting a white one. Tiger dropped another shot at the 12th and yet another at the 17th to come back in 38 for an aggregate of 281, seven strokes adrift of Hamilton and Els.

The 133rd Open Championship was Tiger's 10th tilt at the old silver claret jug and it is worth remembering that he has won it, albeit by a prodigious margin at St Andrew's in 2000, only once. Perhaps when the Open returns to the home of golf next summer, it will provide the inspiration and motivation he needs to remind the world of his extraordinary talent.

In the meantime, he is running with the also-rans. What do you think of Todd Hamilton? He was asked after walking off the 18th. "I don't know anything about him," Tiger replied. "I played with him once but I can't remember where or when."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Film director Martin Scorsese
film
Life and Style
life
News
news

The party's potential nominations read like a high school race for student body president

Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballI have never seen the point of lambasting the fourth official, writes Paul Scholes
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee