Tiger Woods loses a couple of golf tourneys by whopping margins and amateur psychologists start questioning the state of the world No. 1's inner Eldrick.
First, Hank Haney teed off on what was going on inside the brain of his ex-student. A few days later, PGA Tour critic-in-resident Nick Faldo claimed that the 14-time major champion was reeling mentally after arriving at the recent revelation that he was not a golf god.
"I think Tiger's woken up and realized [golf] is a hard sport and he is a mere mortal after all," Faldo told the Daily Mail last week, after Woods' spectacular meltdown at Merion Golf Club that earned him the worst week-long score in relation to par (13-over) in his professional career.
"For so many years he was so good, he was such an amazing athlete. When he went pro he went off like a rocket," said Faldo, who has led the choir in critiquing the equipment change of Woods' good pal, Rory McIlroy. "But he's not in a good mental place."
Haney waited until Woods had carded a third-round 6-over 76 but before ending his week from hell at Merion to tweet that his former pupil failed to prepare properly for the tourney. In a follow-up interview with FoxSports.com's Robert Lusetich, Haney, who coached Woods for six years and then wrote a tell-almost-all book about it, said that Tiger had fallen victim to the pressure of chasing Nicklaus' record.
Faldo, a thrice-married holder of six major titles, has some experience with off-course issues. His own story creepily reflects that of Woods, as the owner of 30 European Tour victories weathered public fallout from three marriages gone bad, lost sponsors' endorsements, saw his game crumble, axed a longtime coach, and even had a trophy girlfriend go all Elin Nordegren with a golf club to his beloved Porsche.
"It was a nine-iron or a wedge," Faldo told The Observer at the time.
For sure, last week was not the first time Sir Nick questioned Woods' mental makeup following the latter’s sex scandal that went public on Thanksgiving night 2009.
Faldo, who will come out of retirement for one more chance at glory at next month's British Open, has consistently said Woods lost the chance to break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major titles after his SUV banged into that fire hydrant and all hell gushed forth. And despite Woods' four PGA Tour wins this season, his most recent back-to-back stinkers (T65 at the Memorial and the nightmare at Merion) proved to the golfer-turned-broadcaster-turned-golfer that the trail of cocktail waitresses and night club hostesses had left an indelible mark on the 78-time tour winner's psyche.
"It was so easy for him before, he made it look so easy, when it is such a hard sport. But whatever he's been through, with all his personal problems, has made an impact on his mind -- and so much of this sport is all in the mind," Faldo said. "Nerve is the bottom line."
All of which could make for interesting eavesdropping when Faldo the contestant and Woods -- who will make yet another comeback at the Open Championship after being sidelined with an elbow injury that will take him out of this week's AT&T National -- meet up at the practice range at Muirfield in just about three weeks' time.