Dear Mr. Woods,
I’ll call you “Mr. Woods” out of respect. But not quite as much as you might otherwise think.
Been saving this one for a while. You’ve traveled some distance. Divorce is a distance, after all. Just ask those of us who’ve been there.
How are you now, Mr. Woods? Rather, who are you now?
Were I a coach or an advisor of any kind, I’d be fired after this. Which is kind of the point.
You don’t listen well. It’s obvious. Or maybe somebody hasn’t really taken you aside. Coaches have come and gone, watching and whispering potential adjustments and tweaks in your driver, wedge, and putter. But that isn’t what I’m talking about.
This is about you. Your Dad’s gone, of course. Maybe he would have been the one to have said something.
Because you’ve been fighting reality, Mr. Woods. Fighting age, time, and yourself. Especially yourself.
It’s so incredibly transparent, once you get out on the course. Your skills are still considerable. Left to save my life, I’m still not sure I would take anybody else along to play a round of golf for me. At your best, you’re still the best.
It’s not as if you can’t win tournaments, either. You’ve nailed five of them this year alone. After a putzy second week, you’re still leading the FedEx Cup standings. Pull that one out, and Player of the Year honors will be a no-brainer.
But you’ll still be disappointed, won’t you? We all know why. We know you are, too.
Maybe it’s time for an attitude adjustment. You started with forty million bucks from Nike, as if you were going to need any of it. Your endorsements, up until you-know-what, pushed your yearly earnings well into eight figures. Alimony aside, you’re still swimming in greenbacks.
And you’ve won the grand slam twice, including the whole schmeer consecutively. Four Masters. Fourteen majors before you were 35. Staggering.
Despite personal issues which emerged with the subtlety of a tsunami, so overwhelmingly over the top that it’s still difficult to imagine, there remain thousands of fans who lean and moan and yell and, most of all, hope for you that you’ll get that mojo going again and be the incredibly dominant player you once were. After all of that, so many of us are still on your side.
Except for one thing: It isn’t nearly the fun it used to be to watch you. Not just because you keep coming up short: because you’re not having any fun, either.
You trod around the big tournaments now like you’re swimming out to a liferaft. Not everywhere, not at Bay Hill or Torrey Pines or Firestone or any of the other places you’ve tamed; not with anything other than a big wad of cash at stake. There, you laugh, especially at yourself. In those locales, you’re great to watch. It’s a pleasure.
But at the majors, it’s so very obvious. You’re stuck, and in more ways than on just that number 14. You’re stuck on yourself, on your legacy, on your quest.
You’re acting with a whiner’s attitude. You’re unable to sustain. You keep talking to missed putts. You threaten, then fade. Injuries? Well, yes. Doubtlessly most of us don’t understand the extent to which you’ve fought them. It’s tougher to shake them off, too. In that way, you’re starting to act like most of the rest of us.
Undoubtedly, that’s probably scaring you. Yes, scaring. The ticking of the clock has begun. You’re past the peak, though just barely. Nobody wants to count the number of majors you have left until you’re 50, the very outer limits of possibility (though if someone could win one after 50, it could easily be you; consider how close Tom Watson got in ’09, at 59). Let me do so: 48.
That sounds like a lot, but Webb Simpson’s got one since you’ve stopped, and Justin Rose, and Keegan Bradley. None of them are shabby, but I bet I know what you’ve been thinking: I could beat those punks blindfolded. Once.
You need five. Or, you think you need five to be known as the greatest player ever. Here is the place, I suggest, to refigure, recalibrate perhaps. You have another record to go after, Mr. Woods.
The thing is, that’s the one you’re probably going to obliterate: 83 PGA wins, held by Sam Snead. You have what, now, 75? At age 37? And winning four or five a year? By 40, it may easily be behind you.
That, combined with the 14 majors, may put you back into the Greatest Ever conversation. Jack Nicklaus? You’ve passed him already, and you’re likely to blow him away. You aren’t going to stop there, though, are you? You’ll have your whole 40s to keep going.
You can get a hundred. Triple digits. You can put that record so far out ahead of everyone’s reach that it will look like Cy Young: completely ridiculous. Impossible.
The reason you have such a better shot at it, of course, is the way you approach the more common Tour tournaments: relaxed, smiling, interested without grinding endlessly. You have that balance between attitude and the larger picture. It matters, but it doesn’t. Except you keep winning them.
Which I, for one, believe will keep happening. And, on the way: You might just win another major or two. You might even have fun doing it. And so would we.
Take that attitude and apply it everywhere–with the press, with your game. See what happens. Pretend Augusta is Bay Hill. Pretend Troon is Firestone. Do it with an approach that’s just above Carefree Highway but just below Armageddon.
Lighten up. It might work.
Go ahead, Mr. Woods–fire me. No big embarrassment. I didn’t ask for a dime.