WATCHING Roger Federer roll back the years to win tennis’ Australian Open got me thinking whether Tiger Woods could do the same in golf.
Right now, Tiger is probably the only person who thinks he can challenge Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 Majors.
I certainly don’t see that. No one in golf does. In fact, I’d be surprised if he added any more to his tally of 14.
Both men dominated their respective sports in their 20s. They had an aura and could intimidate their opponents.
They had the same sponsor and they were the poster boys for sporting excellence.
But apart from last year, Federer has been largely injury-free. If only we could say the same about Tiger.
There have been some subtle changes to the Swiss’ game, but he still has those same gorgeous shots as always.
Seeing Tiger miss the cut at Torrey Pines and then struggle badly again in Dubai before withdrawing, it has been like watching a different golfer.
The injuries to his back and his knee have definitely taken their toll. There doesn’t seem to be the same elasticity as when Woods was in his 20s.
When he stands over the ball on the tee, none of us have any idea where it’s going. Nor does he.
Not feeling confident about finding the fairway eats away at your confidence. But that is not the only problem.
His schedule and his public proclamations have only heaped further pressure on his return.
It was great for the European Tour to see Tiger in Dubai. But I have to question the logic in a 17-hour flight and a 12-hour time change after playing last week in San Diego.
That’s fine when you’re a fit and healthy 25. But Tiger is 41, and he needs to tread carefully for now. Surely it would have been easier to play in Phoenix.
Plus, he talked about wanting to win before both tournaments. We know he’s Tiger Woods, but that is setting the bar too high.
Even Federer was playing things down ahead of the Australian Open after a long injury lay-off.
The missed cut in Dubai was Woods’ eighth in his last 17 events. In his first 13 seasons on tour, he only missed four. That shows how much he is struggling.
His next two events are at Riviera and then the Honda Classic at West Palm Beach. Those are two of the toughest courses on the PGA Tour.
By his current standards, Tiger would need a massive improvement to play all four rounds at both venues.
The saddest comparison I can make is that Tiger is starting to remind me of Seve Ballesteros in his last few years.
Seve used to be a great driver in his pomp. By the end, he couldn’t find the fairway and was having to play miraculous recovery shots far too often.
His downfall was so rapid. It was like switching off a light. I just hope we’re not saying the same about Woods in the near future.