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Tiger Woods may have to settle for mediocrity

Tiger Woods, left, shakes hands with Thomas Bjorn after Bjorn defeated Woods in 19 holes during the first round of the Match Play Championship golf tournament Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011, in Marana, Ariz. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Tiger Woods, left, shakes hands with Thomas Bjorn after Bjorn defeated Woods in 19 holes during the first round of the Match Play Championship golf tournament Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011, in Marana, Ariz. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) (Elaine Thompson - AP)
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By TIM DAHLBERG
The Associated Press
Saturday, February 26, 2011; 4:22 PM

-- Listen to Tiger Woods, and it's simple. His swing is a work in progress, he's working hard at it, and it won't be long before he leaves golf tournaments with more than just some gas money for his private jet.

Watch Woods play and you wonder what fantasy world he's living in.

He used to hit shots that would leave his fellow pros awe-struck. Now he hits shots no self-respecting professional golfer would ever admit to.

He once won tournaments simply by showing up on the first tee. Now Woods seems relieved just to get off the first tee without embarrassing himself.

Things have gotten so bad that Thomas Bjorn had to give him a pep talk on the final green the other day after another Woods meltdown ended with him being unceremoniously bounced from the Match Play Championship in Arizona before he even had a chance to be caught spitting on the greens.

Woods was so upset afterward he stumbled over the few words he had to say before heading home, probably a good thing because there were plenty of young players waiting who surely would have trounced him had he somehow made it past the first round. Just imagine how the former greatest player in the world might have felt if 17-year-old Matteo Manassero of Italy - who made it to the third round - had sent him packing.

While we're in the imagination mode, who would have imagined the great Tiger Woods being reduced to the would ofs and could ofs that weekend golfers always use to describe what might have been?

"Two easy up-and-downs, a putt I should make at 17, a ball I should put in play on 19," Woods said. "It would have been a different story."

Unfortunately for Woods the story is an increasingly familiar one.

He can still hit the kind of shots he used to hit, but they come less frequently and seem to surprise even Woods when they do. The bad ones, though, are simply awful, like the 3-wood off the tee on the first extra hole that flew straight into the desert and cost Woods his match against Bjorn.

His former swing coach couldn't resist lobbing what was arguably a cheap shot at Woods after that one.

"For all the talk of Tiger's poor driving the last six years I have never seen him drive it out of play with a match or tournament on the line," Hank Haney tweeted.


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© 2011 The Associated Press

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