Tiger Woods may believe he can resuscitate his golf game as successfully as surgeons repaired his aching back, but as far as Brandel Chamblee was concerned the Tiger era died at Royal Liverpool on June 19, 2014.
Woods had not yet officially killed his chances of winning his 15th major at the site of last week’s British Open, but the brash Golf Channel analyst and outspoken Tiger critic was ready to dissect the corpse of the former World No. 1’s major championship chase even before he took the field in Sunday’s finale.
"There was a beginning of his career, a middle of his career; this is the end of his career, no question about it," Chamblee said on Saturday after Woods carded a 1-over 73 in the third round of the Open Championship and a day after he eked out a 77 to make the weekend cut on the number. "And if you want to qualify ‘era’ as dominance, then the Tiger era is over, and we’ll never see it again."
(Video courtesy of Golf Channel)
It would be easy to brush off the comments of the guy who flunked Woods out of his 2013 class for his cavalier attitude toward the rules despite a five-win season as just more Tiger-bashing if it were not for the way Woods flailed about on a course he had conquered at the 2006 Open Championship. An opening-round 69 offered promise that Woods could actually compete in only his second start since back surgery in March, but even Tiger appeared to know that his strong play down the stretch was an illusion.
"Pretty much everything. I need to get everything a little bit better," he told reporters after carding five birdies and a bogey on his back nine following a 1-over 36 on the front, before heading to the range for some post-game fine-tuning.
The extra work between rounds may have been enough to get Tiger to the weekend, but Chamblee believes he will need a great deal more than practice sessions with swing coach Sean Foley to reach the promised land again.
The British Open
The British Open
"If he had never abandoned either Butch Harmon’s swing or Hank Haney’s swing, either of them was good enough to ride into the sunset with 25 major championships," said Chamblee, who asserted that Woods’ Foley-re-engineered swing "will not hold up like the one before."
"Watching a guy swing that short and that quick and develop the yips -- and there is no other word for it, the yips -- with his driver, is really sad to see," Chamblee said about Woods' "strong grip and a wipe slice" motion with a driver that could not find the fairway. "And he is never, ever going to dominate with this move unless he changes it, because he still has between his ears what made him the best player of all time perhaps."
Not surprisingly, Woods, who finished 6-over and 23 shots behind winner and three-time major titleholder Rory McIlroy, had a completely different view of his abilities. He entered the week claiming (with nary a wink, wink, nudge, nudge) that his goal was, as always, to win the event; he ended it by asserting the experience shed light on his current strengths and weaknesses.
Meanwhile, Tiger says he's encouraged by 75 today, +6 finish. Says he now knows what's working and what's not.— John Paul Newport (@jpnewport) July 20, 2014
"I've got more game time under my belt. Obviously there's a lot of things I need to work on, but I haven't been able to work on a lot. I was down for three months," Woods said before heading for the tarmac just as McIlroy was beginning his final round. "So I'm just now starting to come back."
While Chamblee may agree to disagree, Woods reiterated what has become his post-surgery mantra.
"I’m only getting stronger and faster, which is great," he said. "I think we did the smart thing by not playing too much leading into this event, just want to assess how my back was. And where I need to strengthen, how I need to go about it, how to gain my explosiveness again, and all that's come along."
As for how he would assess his week-long results, Woods wanted none of any Chamblee-type report card.
Tiger was asked to give himself a grade for the week. "I'm not going there," he said. Didn't know that was an actual grade. #TheOpen— Jay Coffin (@JayCoffinGC) July 20, 2014