Is Tiger's hectic schedule taking a toll?
Tiger Woods has played in only seven of 21 possible events so far this season, but he's in the middle of what might be the busiest year of his life, so excuse the man if he's a little bleary-eyed at Jack Nicklaus's Memorial tournament at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio, this week.
On Tuesday, Woods was in Washington, D.C., at a press conference for his new tournament, the AT&T National at Congressional, which will be played July 5-8 with or without Woods. His wife Elin is due to deliver the couple's first child around July 4, and Tiger has always insisted he'll put family before fairways. He said Monday that Ernie Els, who won the 1997 U.S. Open at Congressional, definitely won't be playing the AT&T. Phil Mickelson probably won't play either, and Vijay Singh is on the fence.
"I have asked some of my friends whether they want to play or not," Woods said. "Some of them have committed, i.e., Jim [Furyk] and Charles [Howell III] and Darren [Clarke]. But it's hard. This time of year, a lot of the Europeans are already over in Europe playing, getting ready for the British Open, and they have a commitment to their tour. ... This tournament is only 84 days old, and because of that, a lot of guys have already made up their schedules. Maybe the field will get better as it gets a little closer, but right now it's a little difficult."
So is the world No. 1's schedule. Woods was in Las Vegas last Friday for Tiger Jam X, the concert/auction fundraiser with special guests Will Ferrell, Kevin James and Bon Jovi, among others. He recently had a second laser-eye surgery. All the while he continues remodeling his new beachfront estate on Jupiter Island, Fla., which set him back a reported $40 million around 18 months ago.
And he's hip-deep in the first project of Tiger Woods Design, a lavish golf course in Dubai called Al Ruwaya. The project has been such a challenge that he hesitated when asked Monday if he'd consider building a track to host his tournament, like Nicklaus did.
"I don't know," Woods said. "I'm still working on my very first golf course, and it is a lot harder than I thought it would be. I don't know how Jack has designed over 250 golf courses around the world. It's mind-boggling because this first one is very difficult."
All of which could explain why Woods has looked so "beatable," to use Rory Sabbatini's word, at the sport that made possible the extracurriculars. Even after he won Wachovia in his second-to-last start, his third victory of 2007, all anyone could talk about was how un-Tiger-like he looked. The effect was unmistakable when he donned mirrored sunglasses while finishing in the middle of the pack at the Players two weeks ago; Woods was suddenly just another golfer.
Is his peripatetic schedule taking its toll? Only Woods knows for sure. "It's hard," he said Monday when asked how he's been able to focus on his golf. "Still got to have my workouts, my daily workouts, as well as practice. It's certainly been tested. Thankfully, I don't sleep much."
Mickelson looked formidable in winning the Players, and although he's never won at Jack's place, he tied for fourth last year. Zach Johnson, arguably the hottest player in the game, tied for second. Of course that was before Johnson had a green jacket in his closet and before Mickelson transformed his long game under Butch Harmon.
Woods has a terrific record at Muirfield Village, with top-five finishes from 2003-2005 in addition to the three straight W's from 1999-2001, but if the recent Masters and Players results are to be trusted, the competition is catching up to him.
With so many balls in the air, it's easy to guess why.