Thoughts on the Tiger Debacle
However, here at Networked Golfer, I can give you one thing you've never heard before: Tiger's marital issues were predicted by my friend Jack months ago. Jack first told me this summer that there was trouble in the Woods household. He said it was the only way to explain his erratic behavior on the golf course.
I laughed it off the first couple of times Jack mentioned it (I distinctly remember him bringing it up in early November during the HSBC in China), but on November 17th Jack said it again in response to an email I sent to him and a few others.
The subject of the email was "Tonty on the Rampage," and it had a link to the clip of Tiger throwing his club in Australia (for those of you who don't know what a Tonty is, look up Tiger's middle name). Jack's simple yet prescient response was, "I think he has problems at home."
After that assured reply, we sent a few emails back and forth about what a tight prenup he must have, etc. One of my other friends chimed in with, "What makes (Jack) think there are problems at home? He sure does a good job covering up the rumors if that's the case." Doesn't that statement seem so naive now?
Thanksgiving happened, and Jack looks like The Great Karnak. Remember -- Jack knew nothing about the alleged mistresses that are now coming out of the woodwork. He made an assessment based on his observation of Tiger's increasingly boorish behavior and stuck with the assessment. I give Jack a lot of credit for seeing through all of the muck surrounding the Tiger love fest and calling it like he saw it.
I will now make a prediction about Tiger's future, and it's only partially connected to his "problems at home." He will lose his grip on #1 in the world in the next 18 months, and it's going to be a three-way fight for it. The leading contender to take his crown is Rory McIlroy. Second is Phil Mickelson, and third is Padraig Harrington.
These guys must smell blood in the water. Phil has rarely been able to kick Tiger while he's down, but if he can keep putting the way he did during the fall, expect him to go on the attack. We all know that Harrington has the guts to shine when Tiger's on the mend, and if you haven't noticed, his swing changes are really paying dividends. They will continue to pay off in 2010.
But the guy who really has things rolling is young McIlroy. He's a complete player who doesn't appear to ruffle under the spotlight. 2009 was like an internship to see whether he could be a big-time player. I would submit that he succeeded; he nearly won the European Tour Order of Merit, and he cracked the top 10 in the world rankings. He also made the cut in all of the majors, contending in two of them.
McIlroy is not a phony "young gun." He's the real deal. And, he's probably hearing footsteps. The footsteps of Rickie Fowler. I'm not going to make any predictions about Fowler just yet, but he will play a large role in Tiger's future, whether Tiger sorts out his domestic issues or not. Count on it.