Distractions may be affecting slumping Tiger Woods heading into PGA Championship

What in the world is wrong with Tiger Woods?

Sure, we all know about his off-the-course problems. But this is a guy who came back from all that and tied for fourth at the Masters, his first tournament in five months.

The thinking then was Woods would simply shake the rust off his game and continue his success from 2009, when he won six times and finished second three others.

Instead, he has gotten rustier. He followed the Masters with a missed cut, a withdrawal from the Players Championship and a tie for 19th at the Memorial. His tie for fourth at the U.S. Open was clearly an aberration. In the three tournaments after that, he has shot in the 60s only once. He has seven consecutive rounds in the 70s, and his 18-over-par performance at last week's Bridgestone Invitational was a career worst.

He is certainly not playing like the Woods who has 71 PGA Tour victories and 14 major championships.

"Tiger Woods right now is playing the worst I've ever seen him play," former coach Butch Harmon told Sky Sports. "I've known Tiger since he was a teenager and he looks lost out there. Tiger Woods has got to get his head right; he's got to get his life in order before he can even think about playing golf. (But) I think if Phil Mickelson gets to No. 1 in the world, that's a big motivational thing for Tiger."

And Mickelson could do that this week with a good showing at the PGA Championship and another Woods collapse. Woods, 34, no longer has a swing coach after getting rid of Harmon and Hank Haney. He worked with swing coach Sean Foley before the start of today's PGA Championship, but Foley is not yet his full-time coach.

His performance last week showed something is clearly wrong with his game. And he is certainly not playing like the No. 1 player in the world.

"It does take some mental stamina,'' said Nick Faldo, a CBS golf analyst who held the No. 1 ranking for 97 weeks in the early '90s. "The spotlight is always on you. It's hard to sustain No. 1. It's very physically and mentally demanding.''

This is Woods' last chance to win a major this season. His last major title was the 2008 U.S. Open, when he famously beat Rocco Mediate in an 18-hole playoff.

Considering everything that has happened since then (including knee surgery and revelations of infidelity), Woods isn't surprised about where his game is, he said at Tuesday's pre-tournament news conference.

"To be honest, I thought I would've been here a little sooner with all that's going on,'' Woods said. "Somehow I've been able to play a little better than I thought for a stretch and then it caught up to me last week.

"Just life in general the last nine months has been very difficult. But I just look at what my dad always says, just keep on living. That's something that I have taken to heart quite a bit. And there were quite a few times that I've definitely said that to myself.''

Faldo believes Woods needs to spend the offseason rebuilding the swing he seems to have lost. And he also needs to find a way to fix his problems off the course.

"What's going on off the golf course obviously has had a major effect,'' Faldo said. "He even said that it's been a long year. We all know what he is referring to. His world used to be that he'd arrive in the parking lot, play his day as a golfer and he left the parking lot. That was it. His own life was to himself.

"Now he doesn't have that. It's 24/7 attention. It's a very emotional time. He's going through something nobody else really has, from world No. 1 to slipping down the mountain. There aren't any straight roads up a mountain.''

Why is Tiger still No. 1?

Tiger Woods has been ranked No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings for 270 straight weeks. How is that possible since he hasn't won a tournament in 2010 and played in only eight events?

The golf rankings points are based on a two-year rolling period. Points are accumulated on all six international tours (PGA, European, PGA Tour Australasia, Sunshine Tour, Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour). An emphasis is placed on strength of field and points are awarded for certain finishes. More points are awarded for major championships; for example, 100 points for major winners, 80 points for the Players Championship and 24 points for regular PGA Tour event wins.

Over a two-year-plus period, thanks to a 2009 in which he won six times and finished second three others, Woods has accumulated a total of 385.08 points in 40 events. Since Woods played fewer than 40 events in the past two years, the rankings go back to his past 40 tournaments. He has an average of 9.63 points, while No.  2 Phil Mickelson has averaged 9.19 points.

At the end of 2009, Woods was averaging 14.398 points and Mickelson 8.104. So Woods' lead is clearly shrinking, and Mickelson can once again claim the top spot with a top-four finish this week coupled with another Woods collapse. Steve Stricker also has an outside shot at No. 1 if he wins this week and Woods finishes out of the top 24 and Mickelson out of the top three.

. fast facts

92nd PGA Championship

When/where: Today-Sunday; Whistling Straits, Kohler, Wis.

Field: 156 players.

Purse: $7.5 million ($1.35 million for winner).

Length: 7,507 yards.

Par: 72.

Defending champion: Y.E. Yang.

TV: 1-8 p.m. today and Friday on TNT; 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on TNT; 2-7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on Ch. 10.

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92nd PGA Championship

Whistling Straits

There are very few courses like this in the United States. The Pete Dye-designed course is links style and built on an abandoned air field. It stretches over 2 miles of cliffs bordering Lake Michigan and has a St. Andrews-type feel.

The signature of the course is that it has 967 bunkers (a world record) through the 18 holes. They are just about everywhere, which forces golfers to find the fairway or else. At 7,507 yards, it is the second-longest course to host a major tournament.

The course has eight holes that hug Lake Michigan, including the signature par-3, 223-yard 17th hole. Also interesting is that a flock of Scottish Blackface sheep make the course their home. Whistling Straits was host of the 2004 PGA Championship, won by Vijay Singh.

Making a name

for themselves

The PGA Championship seems to have more surprise winners than the other three majors. Here's a look at five relative unknowns at the time who went on to win in memorable fashion.

Jeff Sluman, 1988: Sluman trailed fellow FSU grad Paul Azinger by three strokes on Sunday but ended up winning by three. It was his first PGA Tour win, and he wouldn't win again until 1997.

John Daly, 1991: America got its first look at Daly and his blond mullet at Crooked Stick, where he won his first ever tournament as a ninth alternate. Daly hit mammoth drives, and this week he actually hit them straight. He was supposed to be golf's next superstar, but he became golf's biggest train wreck.

Rich Beem, 2002: Beem was supposed to fold under the pressure of Tiger Woods, but he instead held on for a one-shot win. He had a two-shot lead on Sunday and shot a final-round 68 to beat Woods. He has not won since.

Shaun Micheel, 2003: Not only had Micheel not won a major, he'd never won a tournament. Yet he managed an even par 70 to defeat Chad Campbell by two shots. Micheel hasn't won a tournament since.

Y.E. Yang, 2009: Like Beem seven years earlier, Yang had to hold off Woods in the final round. But Yang was playing with Woods, and he didn't succumb to the pressure. Yang chipped in for eagle on the 14th hole at Hazeltine and ended up with the trophy.

Distractions may be affecting slumping Tiger Woods heading into PGA Championship 08/11/10 [Last modified: Thursday, August 12, 2010 12:21am]

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