An­other missed cut for Tiger, who’s not 23 any­more

The Saline Courier Weekend - - SPORTS - By Tim Dahlberg As­so­ci­ated Press

PORTRUSH, North­ern Ire­land — So now we know.

Tiger Woods isn’t done, no mat­ter what it looked like on his slog through the only two rounds he’ll play in this Bri­tish Open. He’s also not in dan­ger of be­ing put in trac­tion any­time soon, no mat­ter how many times he is asked about his sur­gi­cally re­paired back.

He’s just not 23 any­more. And that may be the worst part of be­ing a su­per­star in any sport.

Woods ad­mit­ted as much Fri­day, just be­fore catch­ing his jet home to Florida. If there’s an up­side to miss­ing the cut at Royal Portrush, he said, it’s that he’ll get a chance to sleep in his own bed once again.

Meet the new Tiger. Not the same as the old Tiger.

“Things are dif­fer­ent,” Woods said. “I’m go­ing to have my hot weeks. I’m go­ing to be there in con­tention with a chance to win, and I will win tour­na­ments. But there are times when

I’m just not go­ing to be there. And that wasn’t the case 20-some-odd years ago.”

Com­ing to grips with age, of course, is some­thing every ath­lete strug­gles with. Woods is no ex­cep­tion, though his ra­bid fans some­how think he’s ex­empt from the re­al­i­ties that mere mor­tals face.

And, re­ally, who can blame them. A mag­i­cal win at this year’s Mas­ters af­ter go­ing 11 years with­out win­ning a ma­jor not only added to the Woods leg­end but left his fans want­ing even more.

One look at Woods joy­lessly plod­ding his way around Royal Portrush on Fri­day, though, and it’s ap­par­ent that he’s not only hu­man af­ter all — but an ag­ing hu­man at that.

He’ll be 44 by the time he re­turns to Au­gusta Na­tional to de­fend his green jacket, with the aches and pains of any­one that age ex­ac­er­bated by the amount of times he has swung golf clubs in his life and the four back surg­eries that re­sulted from it. The shots that used to come easy don’t al­ways come when he com­mands them now, and the con­cen­tra­tion he needs stand­ing over 5-foot­ers isn’t al­ways there either.

He’s not done, and to sug­gest so would be silly. His play on the back nine on Sun­day at the Mas­ters was text­book pre­ci­sion, and win­ning the green jacket for a fifth time was al­most as re­mark­able as Jack Nick­laus win­ning at the age of 46 back in 1986.

He will, as he says, likely win again, and it may not be long be­fore that hap­pens. Woods said he’s primed to play in the Fedex Cup play­offs af­ter tak­ing a few weeks off to recharge.

There’s even an out­side chance he could catch Nick­laus with 18 ma­jors — he needs just three more — though with each pass­ing poor per­for­mance that seems un­likely.

But Woods is not go­ing to dom­i­nate again like he did in his prime. He’s not go­ing to win tour­na­ments in bunches like he did in his 20s, will never hold all ma­jor championsh­ips at one time again like he did dur­ing one bril­liant stretch nearly two decades ago.

Ac­cept­ing that takes some time. But Woods seems to fi­nally un­der­stand it.

“It’s just a mat­ter of be­ing con­sis­tent,” Woods said. “That’s one of the hard­est things to ac­cept as an older ath­lete is that you’re not go­ing to be as con­sis­tent as you were at 23.”

A quick look at the re­sults backs that up. Woods seemed to come to this

Open with low ex­pec­ta­tions, and with good rea­son. He hasn’t played com­pet­i­tively since the U.S. Open and was com­ing off a va­ca­tion in Thai­land.

But in the three ma­jors since his Mas­ters win, he’s only played on the week­end once. That was at the U.S. Open at Peb­ble Beach, where he wasn’t a fac­tor.

He’s now missed the cut in just 10 ma­jors in 23 years as a pro. Seven of those missed cuts came in his last 13 ma­jor championsh­ips.

“It’s more frus­trat­ing than any­thing else be­cause this is a ma­jor cham­pi­onship and I love playing in these events,” Woods said. “I love the at­mos­phere. I love just the stress of playing in a ma­jor. And un­for­tu­nately, I’ve only had a chance to win one of them and was able to do it. But the other three I didn’t do very well.”

At this Open he didn’t do well at all. Woods blew up in the rain on the front nine Thurs­day on his way to a 78, and the 70 that he shot in his sec­ond round was, at best, or­di­nary.

That showed in one last slash out of the rough in the rain on 18, then a putt from off the green that got only half­way there. His mood seemed about as bright as the day, though when he stepped out of the rain to an­swer a few ques­tions from the me­dia he put on a happy face.

There were more ques­tions about the back, though Woods has not said any­thing specif­i­cally all week about any back pain.

No, he’s not mov­ing as well as he used to, Woods said af­ter Round 1. He’s sore af­ter playing golf in the cold and rain.

And the last ma­jor of the decade was yet an­other re­minder that he’s not 23 any­more.

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