Tiger Woods isn’t dead, done or dwindling. The greatest golfer ever will still prove he’s the greatest golfer ever by blowing away Jack Nicklaus’ majors record well before the final count of mistresses is made official.
But it will not be nearly as TV entertaining as the pre-wild driveway ride stretch of his storied career. The 110th U.S. Open showed the days of scintillating, edge-of-your-couch golf are if not over at least endangered. Graeme McDowell’s breakthrough win for Europe looked awfully familiar for anyone who watched last year’s U.S. Open at Bethpage or last year’s British Open or ... the recent list goes on an on.
More and more, golf’s majors are returning to a choking staring match. Locate who gags the least, hand that man a trophy and a big check. This is in many ways how golf used to be in the time between the Nicklaus and Tiger. Nick Faldo’s a six-time major winner in large part because he didn’t throw up all over himself at a time when so many others did. Tiger’s dramatic shotmaking under pressure changed all that, raising the expectations of TV viewers and commentators alike.
That’s why McDowell's win seemed so unsatisfying to anyone without an Irish stake in things. Those golf fans raised on Tiger’s red Sundays are likely to continue having a tough time dealing with the return to the old normal.
Just a few years ago, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els would have been eviscerated for their inability to seize the moment at this Open. But when Dustin Johnson, who was talked up like some type of Pebble Beach savant (Johnny Miller almost labeled him the “Ocean Whisperer”), is throwing up an 82, everyone else’s blunders become so relative.
It’s a whole new era for golfers and fans alike. An era with blotchy U.S. Open greens, boring back nines on Sunday and no-name winners. An era you may not wish to recognize.
– Chris Baldwin covers the sports media for Metro
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