U.S. Open Missing Golf’s Leading Man


Tiger Woods

Another Major without Tiger Woods.

I guess we’re going to have to get used to it but it really stinks, doesn’t it?

Remember back in April, when the grass became green, the trees sent forth their leaves, the azaleas were a bloomin’ and Tiger Woods was sending roars around Augusta National Golf Club with his charge over the front nine on Sunday at The Masters? Wasn’t that high fun. Just like old times, wasn’t it? Tiger in the hunt and all eyes riveted to the television to see if he could win his 15th Major.

That he didn’t and a guy named Charl Schwartzel, for heaven’s sake, won The Masters. But Woods was back, making putts and energizing the game and fans as no player has ever quite done before.

Since then, of course, Tiger has dropped off the face of the world…again. His game was breaking down even before his body finally did. He seemed at a loss to turn things around. The front nine on Sunday at Augusta was a quickly fading memory. He seemed almost disinterested at times and hopelessly lost with his swing, something we have never seen from Tiger during his career.

Now he’s on the shelf with a bum knee and Achilles, forcing him to skip this week’s U.S. Open at Congressional. Despite the fact that the talking heads will tell you there’s a marvelous field of contenders who will attempt to tame the Devereux Emmet’s gem we all know something is missing. And that something is Tiger Woods.

Love him or loath him for his indiscretions that resulted in his fall from the stratosphere of golf and fame, Tiger brings eyes to every tournament he plays in. The television ratings have proved that time and time again. No Tiger means lower ratings. It’s that simple.

Oh sure, we’ll root for Phil. But Lefty appears to be struggling with his game, along with his waist size. We’ll cut him some slack on the latter because of the meds he is on for his psoriatic arthritis. But he can’t be 100 percent with all he has to deal with. Perhaps his marvelous 16-under par over the final two days of the Houston Open in April was more a mirage than sustained reality? We’ll find out.

Are any of “The Kids” ready to step up? Rory McIlroy melted during the final round of The Masters like an ice cream cone on a hot June day in Washington, D.C. Rickie Fowler’s clothes have been flashier than his game thus far. Ryo Ishikawa hasn’t been able to transfer his stardom in Japan to the U.S. market. And Anthony Kim may be spending more time making the scene than making birdies.

Hey, wouldn’t it be great if 55-year-old Freddie Funk was in the hunt on the weekend? Dream on.

My guess it will be long ballin’ Dustin Johnson, whose short game and putting are coming around, or one of the foreigners, maybe Martin Kaymer or Geoff Ogilvy, holding our nation’s grandest golf trophy in his arms come Sunday evening on Father’s Day. I just hope it’s close and someone wins the thing rather than a bunch of guys losing it.

This U.S. Open will need to find some juice real quick if it is going to hold the fans’ attention. It’s always tough to stage a first rate show when the leading man is nowhere to be found.

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