Back in 2006 we all knew Tiger Woods was eventually going to race past Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major championships and set a new standard which would likely never be broken. It was a fact of life.
Fast forward to 2011, and it is looking like a long-shot at best. Woods currently has 14 major championship victories, his last coming at the 2008 U.S. Open.
Since 2008 Woods' problems on and off the course have completely changed him as a golfer and maybe as a person. He has suffered injuries to his left knee (ACL), right Achilles tendon (ruptured), back/neck, right ankle, left knee again (MCL) and strained his left Achilles tendon. Throw in all the stuff that's going on with him mentally after the complete meltdown of his public persona and I'd say things have been rough for Tiger.
Here are the facts: Tiger Woods is 35-years-old and not getting better with age. He needs to win five majors to break Nicklaus' record. To give you an idea how difficult that will be, other than Woods, only one active player has even won four majors (Phil Mickelson).
The thing is, with Tiger's latest injuries and his withdrawal from the Players Championship on Thursday, we don't know what the future holds. Woods claims he has been dealing with serious pain in his left knee and left Achilles tendon for a while. If that is the case, you have to wonder if those injuries will linger for years. Major knee injuries are tricky and can last for the rest of your life, even after corrective surgery. The body sometimes just doesn't heal perfectly.
Then again, it could be something else, something no one seems to want to say out loud. Maybe Woods isn't as mentally tough as everyone thought for all those years. After losing his father in 2006, and then having the facade of an image he created come crashing down around him, he just hasn't been the same guy. He used to be able to play through enormous amounts of pain and still be one of the best in the world (see: 2008 U.S. Open). Maybe things have changed and he just doesn't have that laser-like focus anymore. Maybe winning just isn't as important to him. Maybe golf isn't as important.
Maybe we have seen the last of the most dominant sports figure of all-time.
Hey, I could be wrong and maybe after a year getting healthy Woods comes back and owns the tour for another five years. But, at this point, can you really see that happening? Something about Woods seems off and has ever since he returned following the infidelity scandal. He seems to be out there because he has to be, not because he enjoys it. He rarely smiles, or looks like he is having any fun.
He seems to have lost his love for the game he once owned. And that record that seemed so likely to fall at his feet, looks further and further away every day.