Tiger Woods Is Human, After All

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL - MAY 12: Tiger Woods hits from a bunker on the sixth hole during the first round of THE PLAYERS Championship held at THE PLAYERS Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass on May 12, 2011 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Woods withdrew after shooting a 42 on the front nine holes. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Tiger Woods is done after just nine holes at The Players Championship on Thursday, and with his future in more doubt than ever, we take a closer look at what's changed with the greatest golfer in the world. Plus: A word about the NFL lockout, the Miami Heat, prep school scandals, and why Kobe's not trippin. Talking Points is a daily series that runs down some of the best stories in sports (and elsewhere). Read the archives here.

After struggling through three bogeys and one triple bogey, Tiger Woods walked off the course after nine holes of play in The Players Championship on Thursday.

Tiger cited his knee injury when asked about his withdrawal, telling reporters, "Yeah, the knee acted up and then the Achilles followed after that and then the calf started cramping up. Everything started getting tight, so it's just a whole chain reaction ... I'm having a hard time walking."

When he said that, I couldn't help but think back to the 2008 U.S. Open, when Tiger Woods basically played on one leg for the entire weekend, and walked away with his 14th major, looking more invincible than ever. Back then, Woods got off to a rough start a lot like today's round. As Sports Illustrated wrote afterward, "It was clear from the tournament's first hole that Woods was not his normal self, as he made a messy double bogey after a wild drive into deep rough. He took another double on 14 thanks to a bladed pitch shot and three-putted the 18th."

But back then, Woods' response to the pain was, "I'm good to go. I plan on being competitive. Come game time I'll be ready." So how did we get from "I'm good to go" to "It's just a whole chain reaction"?

Three years ago, it wasn't a chain reaction. But this weekend's just the latest reminder: He's not the player he was in 2008, when Rocco Mediate asked him, "Are you completely out of your mind?"

He was out of his mind, now he's not. Back in 2008, his ability to detach made him a freak of nature as an athlete, and a freak accident of a human being. Now he's more like the rest of us, where playing 72 holes of golf on one leg just doesn't seem that appealing.

So aside from opening himself up to a billion "Tiger pulls out" jokes, this is the clearest sign yet that the Tiger Woods we came to know over the past 15 years has changed for good. He's no longer indestructible, probably because he finally admitted as much to himself.  He's not the player he was because he's not the person he was. You can't be brutally honest with yourself in one area, and avoid reality elsewhere.

He can't do what he did in 2008, because no sane human being ever could. With that said, I'll always apprecaite the memories from that weekend at Torrey Pines, because it was one of the most impressive displays I've ever seen in any sport. And for the record, just because he's not invincible doesn't mean he can't still win. He just can't win on a bum knee, which, for the first time in his life, makes him exactly like any other great player on the PGA Tour. He may not be superhuman player he was, but he's still as talented a player as there's ever been.

So with that in mind, I hope Tiger's knee gets better soon because the U.S. Open's in D.C. next month, and if Tiger's not playing, than those tickets I was bidding on might as well be worthless. He may not be the comic book hero he once was, but without him, the game sure lacks imagination.

Now let's get into some more Talking Points...

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From Tiger To Tiger Mothers. From New York Magazine, this was fascinating. A look at the attitudes underpinning Asian upbringing and the cultural implications for kids who grow up that way. There's probably some way to bring this back to Tiger Woods' identity struggles, considering his own regimented upbringing and partially Asian-roots, but frankly, the NBA Playoffs has left me way too exhausted to do that justice.

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How Could Anyone Side With NFL Owners In The Lockout? We've managed to go a few weeks without hearing too much about the NFL Lockout, and for that, I think everybody's pretty grateful. But even so, I still see at least one person a week siding with NFL Owners in all this, and that is ABSURD.

Drew Magary explains at Deadspin:

So here we have one side that has shut down the operations of football TWICE, and another side who A.) didn't instigate the lockout and B.) sued to STOP the lockout and get football played again. This is now the longest work stoppage in NFL history, and it is the result of a labor battle initiated by the owners. Those are facts. It should seem obvious whose cause you, Mr. NFL Fan, ought to get behind.

Nevertheless, plenty of Americans still side with the owners. A rebuttal:

...the idea that there are people out there who would like to see the owners succeed in PREVENTING THE PLAYING OF ACTUAL NFL GAMES to spite NFL players strikes me as … what's the word? Oh, right. F--KING INSANE.

It gets better from there, and thanks to Drew for giving me the go-to resource anytime someone tells me they think the players are ruining football and the owners are just trying to save the game.

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The Miami Heat Are So So So So So So So SO Perfect. From ESPN's Heat Index:

Those who said they couldn’t work together because Wade and James were redundant missed the point. Wade and James work together because their only redundancy is versatility. They do not have specific and defined roles like the Celtics' trio did, and their unpredictability makes them almost impossible to stop consistently.

Like I said over here, the reactions after the Heat's win last night--from the players, Miami coaches, and the media--were everything I would have expected if Miami actually won the title... And not, you know, beaten up on three veterans and a team whose best player was playing with one arm.

Just saying, let's a wait a month 'till we all agree the Heat are "impossible" to stop.

Also, this is a good point (albeit from a Celtics fan):

Screen_shot_2011-05-12_at_1

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Hey, Hope For Hawks Fans! A lot of people talk about Hawks coach Larry Drew and point to ATL's dramatic drop-off in offense this year as evidence of his shortcomings. But really, if you're looking to make a case against Larry Drew, it begins and ends with sitting Jeff Teague all year long and playing Mike Bibby and Kirk Hinrich instead.

Anyway, Lang Whitaker takes a closer look at Teague over at GQ:

Weaving between giants, with his lazy Mohawk and wide smile, Teague often looks like a kid who snuck into the arena. He may not ultimately be enough to counter-act Rose, and the Hawks might not have enough combined firepower to crack Chicago's rock-solid defense. But at this point, we've seen enough to know we have something special in Jeff Teague. Win or lose, Teague has given starving Hawks fans hope. And for a fanbase desperate to feel anything, we'll take whatever we can get, wherever it comes from.

Also of note: Pretty much impossible to hate a basketball player with a mohawk.

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Facebook vs. Google. Like a rap battle between billion dollar corporations!

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Speaking Of Rap Battles... A lot of conservative talk shows were SUPER PISSED that the White House had the gall to invite Common to the White House for a poetry reading. For the uninitiated, Common is a rapper from Chicago whose best known for socially conscious, uplifting lyrics.

But he's a rapper, goddamnit! In the White House.

I love when stuff like this happens, as if nobody other than [insert controversial celebrity] has ever visited the White House. Imagine all the sleazy, soulless CEOs and politicians that have passed through East Room over the years. And Common is the guy you guys have a problem with?

Thankfully, Jon Stewart keeps it real over at The Daily Show:

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Speaking Of The Obamas... Their daughters go to Sidwell Friends School in D.C., which is currently in the midst of a $10 million lawsuit after the school sex-ed teacher got caught having an affair with a parent. Which... WHEW! Certainly makes for some good after-school gossip, and at some point, I'm sure it'll make for a totally awesome 10,000 word Vanity Fair piece.

It's also a good excuse to go back and read Katie Baker's hilarious look at another Sidwell scandal. The one where prep school parents flipped out at a reporter who had the gall to point out how terrible the school's football team was. My favorite Sidwell comment was this:

Well, we are smarter than all of you. I suppose we do have to suck at something as a sort of consolation prize to make your miserable existences seem more worthwhile. I hope you enjoy writing for a hipster rag and making very little money.

Never forget...

Prep schools are the most obnoxious, hilarious places on earth, and people that attend them may be rich, but God they suck at life. "I suppose we do have to suck at something as a sort of consolation prize." The best part of that whole thing is suppose.

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Finally, A Long Overdue Kobe Parody. They're only up three games. Not five, not fifteen...

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