Making Sense Of Tiger Woods' Rapid, Baffling Decline

How can he go from hero to zero at such an alarming rate?

tiger woods

Just when we thought Tiger Woods' game couldn't dip any lower, his horrendous showing on the opening day of the 2015 U.S. Open made his previous struggles seem like heydays.

The three-time former champ looked decent in the warm-ups but completely froze when the actual game began, shooting an abysmal 10-over-par 80 and instantly trailing leaders Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson by 15 shots.

He suffered through eight bogeys and one triple-bogey to finish what was probably the most historically bad day of play at the U.S. Open for a former champ. While the chipping issues that were behind his early season problems weren't bothering him too much, the rest of his game had completely collapsed.

Missing is his old trademark swing that made him the face of the sport. The newer one is labored and Woods has yet to adjust to it despite his consultant Chris Cuomo's best efforts.

Such was the former world No. 1's horror show that even a 15-year-old amateur name Cole Hammer outscored Woods by three. With onlookers wondering if this is the same Tiger Woods who has won 14 majors in his legendary career, plays like these were a constant sight.

When asked at the end of the play to pinpoint what went wrong, he was as clueless as he had been the entire day, saying: "It's one of those things, I've just got to work through it. I'm trying as hard as I can to do it, I just can't get the consistency that I'd like to have out there."

In the past whenever a top talent hits a rough patch, experts usually weight in and offer advice on how to fix the troubling aspect of his/her game. Woods has gotten plenty such tips in recent years too. But this time, even the experts don't know what to say. Greg Norman can't understand what's wrong with him and those who did offer something know perfectly well that no amount of technical advice could fix Woods' game.

This is because technique isn't where he has gone wrong entirely. It's his back injury that fast tracked his game's deterioration. There is precedent of such rapid, inexplicable decline among athletes in other sports and in each case a serious injury that has triggered it.

Not long ago Colombian footballer Radamel Falcao was the best striker in Europe but following a knee surgery he isn't even a shadow of his former self now. It happens in sports that deterioration in physical traits trigger a monumental decline in technical skills as well. Distracted by their newfound physical restraints, athletes often fail to perform even the most basic of on-field task. Their confidence gets shot and the joy of play goes missing – just like it had in the case of Woods here.

Financial commitments and the monies involved mean Woods can't walk away abruptly, but it's clear he can't compete at an elite level anymore. And neither should the fans and experts expect him to regain his form either – because that's not what he has lost.

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