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Let's face it: Tiger Woods isn't Tiger anymore

Tiger Woods of the United States waits on

Tiger Woods of the United States waits on the 12th green during the first round of the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits on Aug. 13, 2015 in Sheboygan, Wis. Credit: Getty Images / Tom Pennington


Those who have been wondering what will happen to golf when Tiger Woods is not around anymore are finding out now. True, physically, he is here. But he's not Tiger Woods.

And if he shoots another round like he did Thursday, he will not be here beyond Friday, either. The first round of the PGA Championship was the latest reminder that Woods is just another golfer these days, just another guy who says that when he is putting well, he can't hit the ball a lick, and vice versa.

He is just another person who comes off the course with a dejected philosophical outlook. After he shot 3-over-par 75 Thursday, placing himself in danger of missing the cut for a third successive major, he used the oldest line in the book: "It's golf."

We all know that, for a long time, Woods was golf. He was bigger than the game itself, drawing tons of attention and millions of viewers. Most of all, he dominated the majors. The PGA, for instance, is a much bigger deal now than it used to be because he won it four times during his quest to top Jack Nicklaus' record for 18 major wins.

Those days seem like ancient Rome now that Woods has shot a cumulative 27 over par in his past six major rounds. They all seem to end with him looking and sounding exasperated, like this from Thursday: "Well, I hit it great today, but I made actually nothing. Probably one of the worst putting rounds I've had in a very long time."

The prospect of episodes like that have been golf's worst nightmare since he ignited the sport with his 1997 Masters triumph. It was part fear and part assumption that the game would go into a terrible tailspin once Woods wasn't Woods anymore.

Except that has not happened. True, television ratings are not as large without him in contention and yes, he still attracts the hugest galleries. But golf has not gone out of business. Fox network executives paid $1 billion for golf rights and, despite its hideous debut in telecasting the U.S. Open, many people watched.

There has been a decent buzz this week at Whistling Straits: Rory McIlroy returning from an injury, Jordan Spieth trying for a Woods-like third major of the season, Dustin Johnson returning to the site of his bunker gaffe. Rarely did Woods' name come up in the run-up here.

Not that analysts and fellow golfers are saying he is washed up. Far from it. They know he uses criticism as fuel and that he is burning to say, "I told you so."

If Jack Nicklaus can win the Masters at 46 and Tom Watson can almost win the British Open at 59, Woods certainly can make a comeback.

It is just that his time as golf's only meal ticket are over. His putting generally is not great, and pro golfers generally do not suddenly get better at putting after their 40th birthday, something Woods will celebrate Dec. 30. They are more likely to sound like he did Thursday: "I just had no feel at all for the speed. It was awful."

Woods might have been overrating the rest of his game a tad. He hit only seven fairways and 12 greens. His approach shots, on average, got within only 34 feet, 3 inches.

Afterward, he did not sound like someone optimistic about finishing well enough this week and/or hurrying to play next week so he can qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs. "The season is pretty much over very soon, but the year is not," he said. "I still can do things overseas, still have our next season. I have my tournament in the Bahamas. There's plenty of golf to be played globally."

No longer, though, does the world of golf revolve around Woods. Golf and Woods both will survive.

New York Sports