It’s understandable that television announcers want Eldrick Woods to play well. With Tiger in contention, ratings skyrocket. For too long, though, those with the microphones in front of their mouths have rooted for Tiger, rather than merely charting his accomplishments at a tournament, often times while ignoring what other players were doing. Now the cheering sounds almost ridiculous as Woods continues to struggle, especially on Sundays.
Coming into Sunday’s final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Tiger was in third place after a 5-under 67. When Woods birdied the par-5 sixth, it appeared as if he would answer the prayers of the PGA Tour, commercial television and Tiger fans. However, when Woods bogeyed holes 7-9, the dreams were dashed. Woods was two over for the first nine holes while his playing partner Phil Mickelson was five-under with three birdies and an eagle 3, moving from third to first as overnight leader Charlie Wi shot a front-nine 39.
As he was dropping, at least one announcer took on the role of Woods apologist.
After Woods left a relatively easy pitch shot well short on the 10th hole, and needed a brilliant putt to prevent his fourth consecutive bogey, Gary McCord tried to explain why Tiger is having fourth-round implosions this year.
“Something happens when a little more adrenalin gets into that golf swing right now,” he said.
To many it appears as if this isn’t about Tiger being overly pumped up, but rather about his not being able to handle the pressure.
Lost in all the Tiger talk for most of Sunday was the fact that Mickelson was on the cusp of moving into rarefied air of the PGA Tour. It wasn’t until Tiger and Mickelson were on the 14th hole that Jim Nantz let us know that if Mickeson were to win, which he did, it would be his 40th career title. What Nantz didn’t say right away is that the victory would make Mickelson one of only 10 players to notch 40 titles and would tie him for ninth on the all-time victory list with Cary Middlecoff as well as give him one more victory than Tom Watson and Gene Sarazen.
It wasn’t until Mickelson and Woods were on the 15th hole that it was finally put into perspective how much Mickelson outplayed Woods on Sunday.
“If you put it in good old match play terms, Phil beat Tiger 7 & 5,” Nick Faldo said. “He’s got him by 10 shots on the day.”
Late in the round, though, Ian Baker-Finch had to make Tiger’s shortcomings the result of factors other than Woods is not the player he once was.
“He’s changed a lot of things in his game and in his swing. New clubs, starting January 1st, as well,” Baker-Finch explained as if those were the only reasons for Tigers poor performances.
It was left to Nantz to keep up the spirits of the Tiger fans, assuring them Woods would win.
“It’s going to happen sometime this year, I’m sure,” Nantz said.
When it was over, Mickelson shot a 64, the best round of the day by three shots. Tiger carded a 75 and finished tied for 15th.