The needle on the gauge has oscillated all season. One week it aims firmly at the point that says “he’s back” and the next it veers to an area that suggests “he’s not”.
Call it the Tigerometre and golf’s current barometric conditions mean the indicator shows he has emphatically returned to the “back” phase.
This is because Tiger Woods has won again. After his triumph in his own PGA Tour event at Congressional last Sunday he is the only player with three victories to his name in 2012.
His previous two wins came in his final outings before the opening pair of majors this season. He claimed the Bay Hill title ahead of the Masters and the Memorial in his build up to the US Open.
Yet at both majors he flattered to deceive. At Augusta he was so out of sorts many pundits were absurdly calling him to sack coach Sean Foley while at the US Open he squandered the halfway lead over a miserable Olympic Club weekend.
In a change to his usual scheduling, Woods plays again this week at the Greenbrier in his final tune up for the year’s third major, the Open Championship.
So which Mr Woods turned up at Royal Lytham and St Annes? Is it the one that has taken him beyond Jack Nicklaus’s 73 PGA titles or the one that has left him stuck four majors short of Nicklaus’s tally in the tournaments that matter most?
It’s hard to judge. Woods has been stuck on 14 majors since winning the 2008 US Open on one leg. His subsequent fitness and personal problems have been well documented and go a long way to explaining his barren run in the majors.
But it is worth looking at the 2009 season for more evidence of why it has been such a struggle for Woods to land his 15th grand slam title.
That was the year he won tournaments in each of his last appearances before all four majors but failed to sustain such winning form on the biggest stages.
This was pre-scandal and at a time when his aura was at its strongest, after all this was the guy who had won a US Open with a broken leg. It was a superhuman effort, yet a year later there were clear frailties and at the Open at Turnberry he missed the cut.
More significantly, for the first time he failed to win a major after leading going into the final round when YE Yang stood up to Woods at the PGA Championship. It’s a well-used line, but eternally apposite; it was the end of an aura.
Later that year he hit the hydrant and his knee and Achilles have subsequently played up on several occasions.
These days players are much less likely to fear Tiger Woods because they know he is as prone to human frailty as they are. Maybe even more so.
It is probably harder than it has ever been for Woods to win a major. So many players can win them. We have had 15 different winners in the last 15 majors and none of those golfers shared the same burden of expectation as the current world number four.
So is he back? Of course he is. His swing is as good as it has been in years and his putting touch seems to be improving as well.
Is he back to where he was at the height of his powers? Of course not. It would be utterly amazing if he were ever to get close again.
Nevertheless, Woods, currently number four in the world, stands every chance of making it back to number one. He might not even need to win a major to do that – Luke Donald and Lee Westwood are living proof of that possibility.
But he won’t be a top dog with the colossal points lead that he used to command. Those days are gone.
And is Woods going to win a fourth Open title later this month? Maybe, but he should be thought of as only one member of a huge group of potential winners, not the out and out favourite. The same applies at August’s PGA at Kiawah.
The reason for this is that, although he is a 14-time champion, the 2012 version of Tiger seems at his most fallible at the majors.
He plays with a similar weight of pressure to that felt by the likes of Donald and Westwood who are trying to win their first major, and Woods is coping about as well as them.
Even so, it is a big fillip for golf that the former number one is proving dominant once again at rank and file events on the PGA Tour. He brings a unique buzz and we will undoubtedly feel its benefits at Lytham.
But that is as far as it goes. It’s anyone’s guess what reading the Tigerometre will provide by the time we reach Sunday night of Open week.
Carter writes for BBC Sport.
NFF Blames Covid-19 For Salary Delay
The Nigeria Football Federation has blamed the delay in the payment of players and coaches bonuses of the national teams on the coronavirus pandemic.
The pandemic brought sporting activities and other businesses around the world to a halt last year, which affected the federation in terms of sponsorship and funds availability.
Super Eagles defender, Leon Balogun, in a recent interview with newsmen, revealed that players and coaches were owed match bonuses.
“About the bonuses, it’s not even a secret, I’ve read something recently where people in charge contradict themselves saying they’ve been paid then they admit they haven’t been paid,” Balogun said.
“And as I said I’m always quite outspoken, probably I know if some people hear that they might come after me but I don’t care because that’s just how it is,” he added.
In a reply to the player’s outburst, NFF General Secretary, Mohammed Sanusi, said the challenges caused by the pandemic were still being felt by government’s institutions and businesses globally.
“The NFF derives no joy in owing players and coaches their entitlements. The same players and coaches have been well-taken care of and provided the necessary facilities when things were normal. And as we work assiduously towards conquering the present challenges and seeing sunlight again, we expect the players, coaches and administrative staff to show the same level of understanding that they have been showing over the past 18 months,” Sanusi said in a statement by the federation’s media office.
“Of course, we are pragmatists and we realise that these things can be frustrating and some people will boil over and talk about them. It is normal. Last month, during the friendlies in Austria, we were able to pay some of the (Super Falcons) outstanding bonuses and allowances. We are working at a pace presently to clear what is remaining.
“As I speak, we owe the team bonuses and allowances from only the last two matches, and payments for these two games have been sent to the Central Bank some weeks ago. They will receive the monies shortly. We are equally working to pay the coaches what they are being owed as salaries.” Sanusi added.
WAFU B Qualifier: Angels Thrash AS Police 5-0, Book Semi’s Ticket
Reigning Nigeria Women Football League (NWFL) Premiership Champions, Rivers Angels on Tuesday evening booked their spot in the last four of the WAFU (UFOA B) Women’s Champions League qualification tournament with an emphatic 5-0 thrashing of Association Sportive de la Police de Niamey.
Maryann Ezenagu scored a brace while Oghenebrume Ikekhua and Alice Ogebe also registered their names on the score sheet.
The Jewel of Rivers got their opening goal in the 13th minute through Ikekhua, who kept her composure to finish off a square pass by left back Rofiat Imuran, who had gone past two opponents.
After a series of near misses by Angels’ forwards, Vivian Ikechukwu provided a superb cross from the far right for Ogebe to tap in the 36th minute to double the lead for Rivers.
In the 45th minute, Ogebe rounded the AS Police goalkeeper to lay the ball for Ezenagu who made no mistake in making it 3-0.
After the break, the Jewel of Rivers kept mounting pressure on the defence of the Nigeriens which eventually paid off with an own goal by Chisa Marceline Bekumaka, James who diverted Ezenagu’s low cross into her own net.
Ezenagu herself then completed the rout in the 77th minute with a beautiful tap in after spurning an offside trap before rounding the hapless AS Police goalkeeper.
With Tuesday’s result, Rivers Angels have finished top of Group B and will wait for today to know who comes second in Group A for a Semifinal clash which will hold on August 2.
Coach Edwin Okon after the game said the difference between his side and their opponents is the fact that they took their chances.
“Football is football and there are no small teams as far as you’re in this tournament,” he stated.
“As you can see, we are actually progressing as the competition continues.
“The difference between us and our opponents today is that we took our chances when they came.
“So I’m really elated with the result today and commend my girls for the outstanding performance”, Okon added.
And for the second consecutive game, Ezenagu was named Player of the Match.
Okagbare, Amusan, 10 Other Nigerian Athletes Cleared
The Athletics Integrity Unit of World Athletics has cleared 12 Nigerian athletes to compete in the track and field events of the ongoing Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
This comes after jumper Ruth Usoro, sprinter Favour Ofili and eight other Nigerian athletes were on Wednesday disqualified from the track and field events of the Olympics.
Tidesports Source gathered that the athletes include sprinter Blessing Okagbare, who won silver at the Beijing edition of the Games in 2008; Ese Brume, Tobi Amusan, Divine Oduduru, Grace Nwokocha and Patience Okon-George.
Others are Enoch Adegoke, Imaobong Nse Uko, Itsekiri Usheoritee, Chukwuebika Enekwechi, Emmanuel Ojeli and Samson Nathaniel.
Reigning Nigerian sprint queen and 100m and 200m record holder, Okagbare, tops the list of the 12 athletes the AIU cleared to compete in the athletics event of the Games, which begins today.
Okagbare, who is making her fourth appearance at the Games, will be competing in the women’s 100m heats on the opening day of the track and field events.
Amusan, who is ranked number four in the world in the 100m hurdles; long jumper Ese Brume, who tops the world list in her event coming to the Games, and Grace Nwokocha, the home-based sensation, who clocked 11.09secs in March at the MOC Grand Prix in Lagos to seal her qualification for the Tokyo Games are seen as medal hopefuls.
Oduduru, Adegoke and Itshekiri will be competing in the men’s 100m while Oduduru will also race in the 200m, an event he holds the national record of 19.73secs, which he set two years ago in Austin, Texas in the USA to win the NCAA gold.
Shot put athlete, Enekwechi, who made it to the event’s final at the World Athletics Championship in Doha, Qatar in 2019, will also be hoping to put up a fine outing in his event.
The 4x400m mixed relay quartet of Imaobong Nse Uko, Patience Okon-George, Nataniel Samson and Ifeanyi Ojeli will be in action today in the first semi-final heat.
Secretary-General, Athletics Federation of Nigeria, Adisa Beyioku, says the athletes are in good spirits as they are determined to return Nigeria to the podium for the first time since 2008 when Okagbare and the women’s 4x100m won Nigeria’s last medals in track and field.
Beyioku assured the 12 athletes that the federation would continue to be “the goose that laid Team Nigeria’s golden eggs at the Olympics.”
Athletics accounts for 13 of the 25 medals won by the country at the Games and two of the three gold medals won since the country’s first participation at the Olympics in China.
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