Kostis: Back to the future without Woods

Friday July 4th, 2008
Mickelson's talent puts him head and shoulders above almost everyone, but his mind is restricting his creativity.
Simon Bruty/SI

While we didn't know the extent of Tiger Woods's injury at the U.S. Open, we now know that he's not going to win another major championship this season, play in the Ryder Cup or win the FedEx Cup.

Since 2005, Woods has won six of the 14 majors played, and been runner-up four times. No one else has come close to that level of sustained excellence in these important events.

A lot of people are asking the same question, "Who is going to step up and take his place?" The answer is no one.

Let's be real. No one player has consistently challenged Tiger when he plays, why should someone suddenly pop up to replace him just because he is injured? That expectation, to me, is an insult to all that Tiger has accomplished.

Phil Mickelson has won two PGA Tour events this season, but he was never a factor at Augusta National or Torrey Pines. His swing is better than it was, but not as good as it needs to be. And his putting is still inconsistent. A lot has been made of Phil's pre-tournament research with Dave Pelz and his willingness to adjust his set configuration to courses. Two drivers, no driver, five wedges — Phil has to realize that tournaments are won by executing shots, not contriving strategies.

Ernie Els has shown flashes of brilliant play this season and is ranked fifth in the world, but he still doesn't have the confidence and swagger that he had before his knee injury in 2005.

Geoff Ogilvy won at Doral with Tiger in the field, and was runner-up the next week in Houston, but he has also missed four cuts this season, including at the Players Championship.

With Tiger not in the field we've seen young guns like Sergio Garcia win the Players Championship, Adam Scott win the Byron Nelson, and Anthony Kim win Wachovia. But we've also veterans like Stewart Cink and Kenny Perry earn victories too.

What we have today is what the golf world used to be, and would have been like, without Tiger — albeit with higher purses! It used to be two or three wins for any player made for a great season.

If there is something positive to be taken from Tiger's absence, it is that the FedEx Cup may actually become interesting. While he will likely win the regular-season points race, Tiger won't win the overall FedEx Cup, which means someone else is going to pocket $10 million. I wouldn't be surprised to see players adjust their schedules late in the season to give themselves a better shot at winning. And that's exactly what Tim Finchem and the PGA Tour always wanted. Ironically, it took Tiger's absence for it to happen.

Europe's best need to get better
Eight Americans will automatically earn spots on the 12-man United States Ryder Cup team, and at this point we know five. Stewart Cink, Phil Mickelson, Kenny Perry, Jim Furyk and Justin Leonard are going to play at Valhalla.

Boo Weekley, Anthony Kim, Brandt Snedeker, Steve Stricker, D.J. Trahan and Hunter Mahan are on the bubble. And because Paul Azinger, the team's captain, has said he wants guys on the team who have won tournaments, don't count J.B. Holmes out of the equation.

Meanwhile, European Ryder Cup captain Nick Faldo is in a real jam. As it stands now, Lee Westwood, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Robert Karlsson and Henrik Stenson look to be on the 12-man team. But with only about five to eight more events on players' schedules before the team is announced, stars like Sergio Garcia, Paul Casey, Luke Donald, Padraig Harrington and Justin Rose are on the bubble.

Faldo only gets two captain's picks, so his big guns have got to start playing better.

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