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The Tiger. An endangered species.


"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles CEO, sportsnetwork.com


Hatboro, PA (Sports Network) -- It is that time of the year again. The Masters. Augusta. Golfdom gathering. Azaleas in bloom. No rooms or tickets to be had. The quintessential segment of one's professional legacy, the green jacket. Four days of what is likely the most focused and vital competition of the year. Yes, there is the U.S. Open, the Open Championship, and the Ryder Cup but there is only one Masters. And the tiger on the prowl is not on everyone's mind, as had been the case for years. Tiger Woods is now ranked 7th in the world and that means the sun no longer comes out at his very presence. The other players do not watch the leaderboard for just one name, his. He is a member of the pack. He no longer stands alone atop the pyramid of golf balls we find at the driving range of all the best golf courses in the country.

Azaleas Bushes
The azaleas complement the grandeur of The Masters and bid welcome to all.
The rest of the players do not fear the pressure of playing alongside him. Rather, they now welcome it. He can be had. The respect for him as a player remains but the awe has dimmed like the dusk that falls across the fairway at day's end of the first round.

He is endangered. The species is in decline. Thoughts of cloning have been laid to rest, no pun intended. All the exercise in the world will not do more than strengthen his body and distance of his drive. It will not put his mind and powers of concentration back together again. The fierce spirit is gone. The positive impact and smile that lit up the area around him has become a facade, falsified and whitewashed behind the wealth and comfort that still pervades his existence.

The late night jokes pop up now and then but the incidents of his demise socially and on the golf course burn deep. They cannot be altered and his very being is artificial. You, we, have one life to live and one legacy to leave behind. People like Tiger Woods have the benefit of two...their family, which always comes first; and then their other accomplishments in any one of a myriad of ways, as on the golf course, in the record books, the tournament wins and trophies that adorn one's home, the adoration and admiration, even envy of others that are vying for your crown. How sweet it is.

How sweet it was.

What Tiger Woods has wrought upon himself will not pass with time. To say otherwise is a ruse, a delusion of sorts. The seemingly fantastic wife, wonderful kids and a life that, literally, had it all. He just wanted more, to prove more to himself when there was nothing to prove, certainly not his manhood. He found that he was not impervious, not above it all, no Teflon wrappings and was ill advised by those around him that knew...and they were there. But, they catered to him rather than confront him.

Tiger Woods
Despite being ranked 7th in the World, he is still Tiger, but he is now part of the audience, not the main event.
All of that is impacting upon his game, his mind, his concentration, his life. It will not go away and the once thought of victories that would become somewhat of an eraser of the past and keep him otherwise occupied have escaped him. Those who have watched this game for years were aghast at what took place. Fred Couples, Ernie Els, Steve Stricker, Refief Goosen, Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk and, of course, Phil Mickelson...the now odds on favorite for this weekend's competition. Mickelson, at his level of play, is joined by Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Paul Casey and Matt Kuchar, just to name a few.

And, speaking of the tiger as an endangered species, the pride of lions circling these golfers are Nick Whatney, Anthony Kim, Hunter Mahan, Dustin Johnson, Ian Poulter, Camilo Villegas, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler. They are fearless. They come out of the locker room with the intention of winning...I mean really winning, not just rah-rah.

They nod towards Tiger but no longer step aside to clear a path for him wherever he chooses to walk. Their quick eye towards the leaderboard to see if societal golf has changed and expectancies were just set aside for a bit results in a nod, a slight shake of the head as if to say, "Figures." You might even catch a quick smile if you watch closely.

As one guy to many others out there, particularly the family ones, what took place with Woods has to be devastating. There is no going back. His wife, Elin Nordegren, and two children, Sam and Charlie, came out of central casting. There seemed to be nothing he could do to keep them together, with him. And, no one is sure how hard he tried or whether there was a scintilla, the smallest ray of hope, that she would ever consider it. He lost the biggest game of his life. He was not beaten, he lost. There is a difference.

This has to be on his mind everywhere he travels without them. Alone, save for a small entourage, on the private jets, at his palatial homes or the estates made available to him wherever he goes. Elin had what women possess much more of than men...pride. She was the epitome of a woman scorned and hell hath no fury like that of such a person.

Phil & Amy Mickelson
After his three-shot win last week in Houston, Mickelson is the odds on favorite to win his fourth green jacket.
Only he knows just how alone he is and how alone he will be from the family that has deserted him over the years. That has to be on his mind. He will not conquer Amen Corner as easily as he might have were she and the children in attendance. He cannot possibly see the love between Mickelson and his wife Amy, as well as their three children ... Amanda, Sophia and Evan ... and not wonder about what might have been, should have been.

Tiger Woods' concentration has not been entirely on golf and one has to wonder if it ever will be again. Will the daring emerge, the miraculous shot-making, the drives that passed missiles on their way towards designated target areas, the smile that lit up the fairway when the clouds rolled in, the adoring crowds who now applaud politely with only a slight cheer emerging here and there?

It all starts this week and a green jacket will be worn by someone. Chances of it being Tiger Woods are nil to none. He has lost the fire, the one his own actions put out without thinking of the consequences. He was not, as he might have thought, above it all and immune from the result that would befall others.

I think that "You gotta be kidding!" will be the phrase most suited to his being in the hunt, no less the emerging winner this weekend. Instead, he is the hunted and, sadly, easily so.