Tiger is finally showing his age

Staff WriterAugust 18, 2009 

Tiger Woods, during those final PGA Championship holes Sunday, didn't merely look human. He finally looked his age, which is approaching 34.

As Y.E. Yang stubbornly maintained his composure, Woods assumed the role of a calculating golfer in a middle-age protective posture rather than a confident youngster on the attack.

Woods clearly was attempting to hold his turf while waiting for the challenger to back down.

By no means was it a choke. A choke is when you get so nervous that you're actually afraid to strike the ball, take the open shot, swing the bat, kick a football, answer the quiz question, ask someone to dance.

Tom Watson -- bless his big heart -- choked on the 72nd hole of the British Open about a month ago. Bill Buckner choked on a ground ball in the 1986 World Series. Scott Norwood choked on a field-goal attempt in the 25th Super Bowl. Lots of bright students choke on the college boards.

It wasn't that Woods choked. He just failed to snuff the competitive breath in Yang by missing too many sinkable putts on the back nine at Hazeltine National.

Three or four years ago, Woods would have made enough of those putts -- and with such cold-blooded aggression -- that Yang would have wilted on the spot. Woods would have won the tournament by about 10 shots, and Yang would have gone the way of Bob May.

No one -- Tiger, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, young and/or old Tom Morris -- gets a gimme on putting. It's the first and final axiom of the sport: Drive for show, putt for sanity.

And at the end of the shooting on Sunday, that is what happened. We saw Tiger Woods make enough shots to win, but not nearly enough putts. As only the late and eternally eloquent Tommy Bolt once put it, "The biggest problem with this [bleep-bleep] sport is that those little [bleeping] putts have to get counted as real shots, too."

Putting eventually will do to Tiger what it has done to golfers since the word "yips" weaseled its ugly way into the international athletic vocabulary. Putts will turn him into a spectator -- probably a commentator in Woods' case.

Oh, sure, he will get by and with lots of room to spare long enough to smash any record that Nicklaus and everyone else set. Woods will be winning a major here and there into his 40s and maybe his 50s. He's without question the best golfer most of us will ever see.

But Tiger got a glimpse of his demise Sunday, and it definitely did not materialize in the form of Y.E. Yang. Instead, it came in the form of the stupid stick that has been hanging around inside his bag for the past 30 or so years, just waiting for a scorecard to evolve into a calendar.

caulton.tudor@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8946

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