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Golf Tidbits: Missing the old Tiger

Kevin Currie, Golf Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - What is wrong with Tiger Woods?

Nothing of course, but that is always the first question out of people's mouths when the world's No. 1 player doesn't win a tournament, let alone a major.

Easy to forget that the guy has won five tournaments this season, including the trilogy of Arnie's tournament, Jack's tourney and his own, AT&T National.

So the closing instinct that has helped Woods collect 70 PGA Tour wins by the age of 33 -- third-most of all time -- is still there, but his play in the four majors this season has left a little to be desired.

Woods shared sixth place at both the Masters and U.S. Open, but missed the cut at the British Open, and what was seen from Woods over the final two rounds at the PGA Championship was something rare indeed.

There were missed putts (lots of them), poor club selection and overall, just hesitant play.

The old Woods, you know, the one who in his 20s crushed the competition in major championships by 12 strokes at Augusta, by 15 Pebble Beach and eight strokes at St. Andrews, is gone.

The one word Tiger uses more than ever in press conferences is "grinding." He grinds over every shot, which is understandable given the fact that the biggest titles are on the line.

However, you mix the grinding with miscalculating wind speeds, poor club selection or just poor execution, and you get what you saw over the final 36 holes at Hazeltine.

Woods played the final two rounds in two-over par, including a three-over 75 on Sunday that cost him his first 54-hole lead in a major. He was asked after the second and third rounds of the PGA Championship about closing in majors, and he didn't directly respond to either question.

After the second round, Woods was asked if he had ever done anything that he would consider choking in a major. He shook his head "no", shrugged his shoulders and stared straight ahead waiting for the moderator to have the next question asked.

Almost as if the press was talking him into coughing up his first 54-hole lead in a major, Woods was asked what major No. 15 would mean to him after the third round. Woods gave every golfer's cliched answer about there being a long way to go and we haven't won anything yet.

The reporter tried to follow up with "You didn't answer my question,", and Woods' response, "Yeah, imagine that."

Obviously, Woods was trying not to jinx himself by saying how great it was to have 15 major championship titles before it happened, but maybe he sensed something that no one else could.

Woods has changed his swing, his coaches and his caddie over the years. And his overall game has evolved with time and knowledge of the courses he plays.

You get the sense that Woods either no longer wants to beat the field by double-digit margins, or is no longer capable of doing so. It seems at times that he just wants to grind out a one- or two-stroke win. Or, maybe the rest of golf has finally learned what it takes to truly challenge him.

The old Woods, the one I miss, would have turned on the after-burners going into the third round last weekend and crushed the field.

The television ratings were up 150% thanks to Woods' battle with eventual champion Y.E. Yang, but I'd say the ratings would have gone even higher if he ran away and won by 10 strokes.

The difference in the grind-it-out vs. blowout strategy is that Woods, with a big lead, would be more likely to hit highlight-reel shots hole after hole. The only highlights from Hazeltine were missed putts or iron shots missing the green.

What you didn't see were shots like Woods' miraculous chip-in birdie at Augusta, or his "Better than Most" putt at Sawgrass. What you see now from Tiger is middle-of-the-green approach shots and 25-foot birdie putts. BORING!!

I want the old Tiger back. I want him knocking down pins from 200 yards out and tapping in for birdie putt. I want him blowing away the field and hitting remarkable shots along the way.

I don't want to see anymore carving iron shots safely to 20 or 30 feet and making the putt. Anyone can make a putt, but few can hit the remarkable shots Woods has hit throughout his career.

EUROS TRULY THE UNDERDOGS AT SOLHEIM CUP

The United States team enters this weekend's Solheim Cup with at least two distinct advantage over their European counterparts.

First and foremost, the European team has never won the Solheim Cup on American soil. Guess where the event is being played this week? How about America's heartland...Rich Harvest Farms in Illinois is the venue this week.

The Americans' second big advantage comes in the world rankings, where the U.S. team has an average world ranking of 27.5. Natalie Gulbis is the lowest ranked player on the home team at No. 51 in the world.

Six Europeans, half of the team, are ranked higher than Gulbis. The European squad has an average world ranking of 79.25 and has seven combined major championship wins.

That total equals that of American Juli Inkster. The eight-time Solheim Cup performer owns seven of the 10 major championships that the U.S. team has accounted for.

MINI-TIDBITS

- This week's Wyndham Championship is the final event for PGA Tour players to attempt to gain entry into the FedEx Cup playoffs, where the top 125 on the points list get in. There are over 60 players on the outside looking in that are competing at Sedgefield Country Club this week, and that includes all but two players ranked between 110th and 140th on the points list.

- Golf and Rugby are battling for a spot in the 2016 Olympics. I say golf wins the battle for one simple reason...rugby is changing its rules in an attempt to get into the games. The proposal is for a 7-on-7 instead of 15-on-15 rugby match. FORE, PLEASE!

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Kevin Currie at kcurrie@sportsnetwork.com.

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