Altvater: Summer of discontentWritten by Fred Altvater | | BackNine@toledofreepress.com
Tiger Woods polished off his final round 77 at the WGC Bridgestone leaving him at +18 for the week firmly in 78th place in the elite field of 81 top ranked golfers. He spoke briefly with reporters, jumped into his Lexus courtesy car, boarded his private jet and left the Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio some two hours before tournament leader, Sean O’Hair teed off. Tiger was a nonfactor at a golf course that he has owned over his golfing career. He did set some dubious career records for the week. His 54 hole total of 221 (+11), 72 hole total of 298 (+18), and his 78th place finish were all the worst in his 13 years on tour.
With just 4 major victories left to catch Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major championships, this was to be Tiger’s big year. Augusta National, Pebble Beach, and St. Andrews hosted the first three majors of 2010 and all three have been sites of previous fetes of golfing greatness and wins for him. The result thus far in 2010 no majors, no wins, no love, and no game.
Tiger has been #1 on the Official World Golf Rankings for the past 269 weeks and 611 weeks of his career. The once unsurmountable difference between himself and world #2 Phil Mickelson is now merely millimeters. Even world #3 Lee Westwood could have overtaken Tiger this week. Westwood has problems of his own though. A recurring leg injury forced him to withdraw from WGC Bridgestone, has sidelined him from competitiion for 6 – 8 weeks, and may even affect his ability to participate in the Ryder Cup. Tiger only has two top ten finishes in 2010 and this was only his 8th tournament of the year. But since Phil made a mess of his final round at Firestone shooting an ugly 78 and eventually dropping all the way to T46. The #1 ranking is Tiger’s for at least one more week.
Tiger ranks 111th in the FedEx Cup standings. With just the PGA at Whistling Straits and the Wyndham Championships at Greensboro remaining on the regular season schedule, he should qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs. He could still salvage his season with a win at the PGA and maybe throw in a win at one of the four FedEx Cup playoff venues.
The Ryder Cup is another kettle of fish, however. Captain Corey Pavin could be put in for a bit of bother. Tiger currently is ninth on the U. S. Ryder Cup standings, but will drop lower this week. Only the top eight automatically qualify for the team. Pavin has 4 Captain’s picks to round out the 12 member team. With the state of Tiger’s game does Pavin pick him to join the team or does he choose someone else that is currently playing much better. Ricky Barnes, Ricky Fowler, Bubba Watson, Bo Van Pelt, and Sean O’Hair all would be much better choices that Tiger. Tiger emphatically proclaimed at the Wednesday press conference at the WGC Bridgestone that he would play his way onto the team. He didn’t have much success at that this week.
Whistling Straits will be a very interesting venue next week. It is not only the final major of the year, but it is the last tournament to earn Ryder Cup points and Captain Pavin will announce his Captain’s picks on Monday after the PGA Championship. Will Tiger indeed play his way onto the team? Will he decline an invitation from Captain Pavin as a Captain’s Pick? Official World Golf Rankings will again be an important topic of conversation with the chasm between Tiger and Phil growing ever smaller. Can Tiger get his head screwed on straight and master Whistling Straits? Stay tuned golf fans there is a lot to play for in the next couple of weeks, the “Back 9″ of the PGA Tour.