Tiger Woods: Not the Player He Was

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For better or worse, Tiger Woods has dominated the golf headlines for over a decade. For a long time this was a good thing, as his raw talent and star power brought new attention to a sport that had traditionally been thought of a niche game for a small group of older men. He has sparked new interest in the game, progressed the way the game is played, and achieved many victories in stunning fashion.

However, after the recent scandal surrounding his love life, Woods seems to be in rapid decline. His 2010 season has been the worst in his career, and he doesn’t seem capable of getting his game back on track any time soon. And it’s not just that his game has declined; he just doesn’t seem like the same guy anymore. There’s been lots of speculation over why this may be, and a number of compelling potential reasons for his decline have come to light.

1. Personal distractions: I won’t go into the nature of the scandal surrounding Woods (there’s plenty of information about that out there if you’re looking for it), and I’m not here to judge. But the one thing that can’t be denied about Woods’s personal difficulties is that they’re serious and have likely caused major disruptions in his life.

We like to think that public figures take these things in stride and are not affected in any lasting emotional way, but that’s silly. Woods is a person just like the rest of us, except his troubles are even worse in that they’re so public. Given all this, it’s understandable if the mental side of his game isn’t all there. He’s been publically embarrassed, his marriage had been put under strain, and he’s had to go on TV and talk publically about some embarrassing issues. If I were facing all this, I wouldn’t perform well in my job, either.

2. Performance anxiety: Woods has done more than just perform poorly; he has performed poorly in some spectacular ways, far exceeding even the worst performances from earlier in his career. Even in opens where he has been the favorite, he’s consistently fallen flat with disastrous performances. As Woods racks up defeat after defeat, it’s only natural for him to put more and more pressure on himself, and this pressure could have an inverse effect, causing him to get in his own way.

Hopefully, Woods will be able to clear his head and get back on track by next year. He needs a clean slate, which means putting this past season out of his mind.

3. The game has caught up: Ever since Woods hit the scene, his raw talent and style of play have had a profound effect not only on other players but also on how courses are designed. The game has now had over a decade to catch up with the player, and it could just be that all this hard work is finally paying off for every golfer not named Tiger. It’s probably not the only factor, but when you combine this with all the other stuff, it could be that Tiger’s dominance is a thing of the past.

4. Treatment has interfered: Woods publicly entered rehab and psychological treatment soon after the embarrassing revelations about his personal life came to light, and this could be affecting his performance. Not that treatment is a bad thing, but it would undoubtedly draw Tiger’s time and energy away from practice and mental preparation for his game. Maybe once he gets through these early stages of treatment and moves to the next stage of his life, he will reclaim some of his past glory.

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