It's time to let the old Tiger go

Tiger Woods of the US heads for the

Tiger Woods of the US heads for the green at the 2nd hole during the fourth round of the 112th US Open at San Francisco's Olympic Club. (June 17, 2012) (Credit: Getty Images)

Mark Herrmann

Newsday columnist Mark Herrmann Mark Herrmann

Herrmann has covered the Mets and Yankees since 1988,

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SAN FRANCISCO

This time, Tiger Woods had the impossible task of trying to be the Johnny Miller of 1973. That is, he was trying to come from back in the pack and stagger the U.S. Open field with a stunning score before the field knew what hit it. Lots of luck. Sure enough, he fell way short.

At least that was better than trying to be the old Tiger Woods, which is what Woods is expected to be whenever he starts playing decently. This is a good time for everyone, including Woods, to stop expecting that. He is not the old Tiger and never will be the old Tiger again.

Nor should he be.

The old Tiger had a swing that put too much stress on his left knee and kept sending him to surgery. The old Tiger had a sense of entitlement that led him into mistakes that cost him his marriage, his endorsements and his peace of mind. The old Tiger was in his 20s, not well into his 30s, and into fatherhood.

Now would be a good time to stop saying he's "back" or almost "back" or wondering when he will be "back." No offense to Bubba Watson, who said after watching Woods masterfully control his shots Thursday, "That was the old Tiger." Bubba was off target.

Even if Woods wanted to be the old Tiger, which he shouldn't, this is not the same old world. Too many other pros are better than they were in 2000, and they aren't as intimidated. Everyone's equipment is advanced, so Woods doesn't have the big length advantage he used to have. He doesn't putt as well as he did then, so he doesn't have the huge edge he had on the greens. Sure, he does have the game to win a major championship. He proved that on Thursday and Friday. Can he win four in a row, the way the old Tiger did? Not likely.

He proved that Saturday, toppling from a share of first to a tie for 14th, and again yesterday, having one of the most horrible starts in his career. Woods never came close to the 63 that Miller shot early in the final round of the 1973 U.S. Open. Woods drove into the right rough on Olympic Club's No. 1, hit a layup shot, pitched on and missed his par putt. He bogeyed from the back bunker on No. 2. He double-bogeyed No. 3. After three holes, it was four over for the day, eight over for the Open and game over for Woods.

So now is the time to unveil Tiger 2.0. It is time for networks -- and we reporters -- to stop fixating on flashbacks. It is time for him to follow through on the personality changes that he promised when he made after his crisis.

Having spent a lifetime of emulating Jack Nicklaus and chasing his records, Woods ought to take the one page from Nicklaus he hasn't touched yet. During the heart of his career, Nicklaus entirely changed his personality. He trimmed down from being "Fat Jack," let his hair down, wore brighter clothes. He went from being a somewhat prickly counterpoint to Arnold Palmer's Mr. Nice Guy to being the best interview in American sports.

The best signs Woods showed this week weren't on his swings. He was humble and open after his bad round Saturday. He revealed a sense of humor Sunday when he made an exaggerated disgusted wave at his ball when it finally registered a birdie on No. 8.

He should be like that more often. He should throw us all a curve and wear colors other than red and black on Sundays. He should show up to play the Shell Houston Open and the John Deere Classic.

The heck with trying to recapture the old Tiger. Now is the time for a new Tiger.