Tiger’s flawed game brings out critics

Divining Tiger Woods has become golf’s greatest pastime.

"Will he, or won’t he?" has become a question of Shakespearean dimensions as Woods strives to find the champion he used to be.

Is Woods "gone," his "golfing brain completely addled" as Peter Alliss, the legendary British broadcaster, said during his Hall of Fame induction speech on Monday night?

Certainly, a worst-ever performance at the Masters followed by a sloppy missed cut — only the eighth of his professional career — at Quail Hollow last week suggests the light at the end of Woods’ tunnel is very far away.

On Tuesday, three of golf’s premier television analysts — Johnny Miller, Nick Faldo and Brandel Chamblee — weighed in on the State of the Tiger, and they weren’t exactly recommending buying his stock.

"The real bottom-line is for me (that) he just doesn’t have the self-belief, the self-confidence that he obviously had, the Tiger of old," said Faldo.

Miller admitted that after Woods impressively won in March at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill — his first real win since the scandal of 2009 — he thought the 14-time major champion "was back."

"But then his nerves just went off the redline and he basically succumbed to the pressure of the Masters," Miller said.

"I think that was a shock to him and it really made him very human.

"The Masters really hurt him. He has to rebuild his confidence."

Miller suggested that Woods begin by incorporating "anti-choke" shots into his game.

Chamblee was the most strident, saying that Woods needed to dump Sean Foley and return to his former swing coach, Butch Harmon.

"I know he’ll never do that because he’s letting his ego get in the way of common sense," he said.

(The problem, too, is that Harmon, who coaches Phil Mickelson now, knows he has nothing to gain — and a lot to lose — by returning to a 36-year-old Woods with chronic leg and achilles conditions.)

Chamblee said that Woods needs to stop trying to learn the complicated, "counterintuitive swing" that Foley’s teaching him, but won’t.

"He would rather prove to people that he’s right than be right," he said.

"He’s going to ride this thing as long as he can and it’s just sad to see."

Chamblee said Woods had become so obsessed with science that "he’s lost the art of the game."

"It’s sad to watch a guy who literally owned the game, who literally was doing what everybody dreamed of doing, couldn’t play any better — nobody had ever played better in the history of the game — to just scrap that and start over," he said.

Woods usually doesn’t respond to such criticism, but he didn’t dodge the questions on Tuesday at his pre-tournament press conference at The Players.

"He’s entitled to his (opinion) but he’s no longer playing anymore," said Woods in dismissing Chamblee.

When asked about his psyche, Woods laughed.

"I always find it interesting since they’re not in my head," he said. "They must have some kind of superpower I don’t know about."

In a more serious moment, he addressed the most relevant question: Has his recent slump dented his confidence?

"I think if you’re a player, we’ve all gone through this,” he said. "You’re not going to play well every week.

"There are times when I have felt awful over a golf ball and I’ve still somehow won a golf tournament. It doesn’t mean I feel comfortable, but just somehow figured out a way."

Finding a way this week, at TPC Sawgrass — which isn’t one of his favorite layouts — might be a challenge.

Woods has withdrawn from his past two Players. He left with a sore neck in the final round in 2010. Last year, he limped off after just nine holes having shot 42, complaining of tightness in his left achilles and calf.

He has only one top-ten here since winning in 2001.

"This is a golf course that he’s never really liked," said Miller.

"Neither has Phil Mickelson. It’s not a golf course where you can spray it all over. It’s a precision course. It’s an intimidating course (to) your eye.

"Both Tiger and Phil have won here, but it’s been a struggle most of the time."

Woods said he’d worked on the thing that has most hurt him over the past two tournaments — his set-up — and expects to play well, though he acknowledged that "when you’re off on this golf course you’re going to get penalized pretty severely."

Otherwise, he said, his game was "a work in progress, and you’ve just got to continue working, keep trying to get better."

Maybe the most revealing thing Woods said on Tuesday came when he opined that he’d prefer not to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame when he’s 40.

"I don’t want to be on the ballot at that age," he said.

"I still have work to do."