Hey Tiger! You’ve lost a step but you’ll win again

Hey Tiger, I hope you’re feeling better.

I know it sucks after coming so close to winning the Open Championship. Well, I kinda know what you might be feeling. Sorta anyway.

At least, the part that you might be feeling about being 42 and getting older, and not being able to do what you used to do with such ease.

I feel somewhat empowered to write you given how long I’ve watched you—hey, I was there in 1997 when you won that first green jacket—and that I watched every single shot you hit last week from the vantage point of my couch due to my own—and perhaps age-related—run-in with mortality this past week.

(That’s us at the 2000 Canadian Open in the pic. Yup, that’s me with the white hat and shades sitting behind you. Don’t pretend you don’t remember.)

Last week, I came down with a cold and flu thing that’s going around. By Wednesday, I was hacking my guts out and couldn’t sleep. So I went to the doc, and turns out I had either bronchitis or pneumonia!

I was so fried, I couldn’t work. By Thursday, I summoned the strength to watch you play the Open; in solidarity, just one guy to another who might feel Father Time has thrust his bony finger into our chests. Or backs.

Anyway, it was weird to get some serious sounding respiratory deal going. That never happened before. But at 61, stuff happens that didn’t used to happen, and I can’t do what I once could. You see where I’m coming from? Where this is going?

So I wouldn’t blame you if you were thinking, ‘Most of my brilliant chips used to go in!’ You know, those lip-hangers that quivered nervously on the edge before gently toppling in?

And out of the hay, you used to slash it out no problem, not like on 11 Sunday.  While we’re at it, in the old days, no way that flop comes up short. (You appeared indecisive too—not a look we’re familiar with from you.)

Yeah, I know it was 10 years since the last time you were gunning for a major; on a broken leg no less. This wasn’t no old-guys-put-the-band-back-together-and-rock Vegas. That’s Hollywood stuff. You don’t just flip a switch to recapture old glory.

But there were reminders of your youthful powers. On 10, when you ripped that wedge so fast in that bunker that it recoiled off your back? Dude, that was some serious clubhead speed. That was cool!

Fifteen to 20 years ago, you were the only guy who could do wild stuff like that—perform Gumby-like-follow-throughs and stake 4-irons from knee-deep foliage.

But now, you’re like a superhero who’s lost his special powers. Time and those injuries have levelled things out. That’s cool. You still swing it as fast as the kids, hit smarter shots than most of them, and you still have the greatest body language going.

It was awesome to watch you putt so sweetly from Friday onwards. Well, at least not until that feeble de-cel on your last putt Sunday. Embarrassing! I know it didn’t matter by then, but still. That never used to happen either.

But boy oh boy, it was great while it lasted. Given all that you’ve been through—and put yourself through—with the back surgeries, personal drama, the protracted recovery, I was feeling some serious goose pimples contemplating you hoisting the Claret Jug. You would have ripped Trump off the front page.

Oh well, when the magic started to fade Sunday, I wasn’t that disappointed. At age 42, with a fused back, a patchwork of scars—both psychic and physical—and a forehead that keeps expanding northward, you were right there with the young bucks. Heck, Jordan and Xander were three in ‘97.

I know it stung like heck to be so damn close. But I’m sure those hugs from your beautiful kids helped. It was sweet to see you having a moment like that. Seriously. You keep that side of you hidden. Hey, I didn’t cry or nothing, but as we get older, the waterworks come easier and you sure hug a lot more.

But you’re not done winning. Oh no. Quite obviously, you’re this close to winning a tournament again, including a major. I believe you can. Even cranky geezer Johnny Miller thinks so.

Like Rory said, you’re not “that Tiger,” the one he grew up idolizing. But with every big event you contend in, you’re getting those major ‘feels’ back that you talk about all the time.

Those feels will get you No. 15. I can’t wait to see you win again. And you will.

All the best fellow old-timer.

About Tim O'Connor

Tim O'Connor is a golf coach, an award-winning writer, and speaker. Tim takes a holistic approach, coaching golfers in the physical and mental aspects of golf. He co-hosts the Swing Thoughts podcast with Howard Glassman, and is the author of The Feeling of Greatness: The Moe Norman Story. He plays bass in CID—a Guelph punk band!