Tiger losing steam

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:10 AM ET

A blip or a trend?

That is the question the golf world will be contemplating leading up to next April's Masters.

It's a question Tiger Woods will likely be asking himself.

Was his 0-fer in the majors this year just some poor putting at the worst time or a flattening of his career arc?

Not that this year has been a bad one. Woods has five wins and will likely add at least another, if not a couple, in the FedEx playoffs. But for a man whose professional life revolves around acquiring major titles, this year is his worst since 2004. The last time he was in this kind of major funk, he switched teachers, dropping Butch Harmon and switching to Hank Haney.

There's nothing to indicate such a drastic move could be afoot, though that hasn't stopped speculation. Woods' full swing wasn't the biggest reason he failed to close for the first time in 14 attempts when holding the 54-hole lead at a major. Putting was Woods' downfall Sunday (33 putts in his closing 75) and that's not Haney's fault.

While a year without a major is rare for Woods -- since turning pro in 1996, Woods has experienced only three calendar years in which he went major-less (1998, '03 and '04) -- the way he lost to Y.E. Yang revealed for the first time a Tiger Woods in the lead who couldn't come up with the kill shot.

And don't think other players didn't notice.

This time it was Yang striking the key blows: The chip-in eagle on 14 and that breathtaking hybrid over a tree from 206 yards in a stiff breeze to within eight feet of the hole to seal the deal.

Woods can recite Nicklaus' record in the majors backwards and forwards, so he will likely know that Nicklaus also struggled to win his 15th major.

After Nicklaus won the 1975 PGA Championship for his 14th major, Nicklaus went 0-fer in the next 10 majors, not winning his 15th until he captured the 1978 British. In fact, that win was Nicklaus' only victory in a stretch of 17 majors ('76 Masters through '80 Masters).

Woods has twice gone 10 majors without a victory ('97 U.S. Open to '99 British and '02 British to '04 PGA).

His current winless streak is at six.

HERE AND THERE

There's a Canadian connection in the Yang camp: he trains with Canadian Dr. Craig Davies, Core Golf's director of fitness and nutrition. Davies, a native of Niagara Falls, also works with Hunter Mahan and John Rollins ... Following the Rideau View Pro-Am in Ottawa on Monday -- a one-day tournament featuring players from the Canadian and Nationwide Tours -- an impromptu long-drive competition broke out. The inappropriately named Adam Short won it with a knock of 355 yards. Maybe more impressive was Andres Gonzales in a dress shirt, kicking off his flipflops and launching one 354 yards ... Yang used a TaylorMade Rescue, 19 degrees, to nail that approach on 18 at Hazeltine.

THE BUZZ

News from the National Allied Golf Associations confirms what was suspected: Canadians are golf geeks. The golf industry is a big deal in Canada, generating $11.3 billion in economic activity. There were about 70 million rounds of golf played in 2008 and that's down about 10% from previous years. Guess I'll have to do my part to get that number back up ... My three favourites on David Letterman's Top 10 Tiger Woods Excuses: No. 9: "Spent previous night with John Daly;" No. 7: "Wasn't feeling very Tiger-y," and No. 6: "Would you practice if you had a hot Swedish wife?"

REVELATIONS

In case you hadn't noticed, the stars of women's golf (remember them?) are finally back in action this week after taking what it seems like the last six weeks off, which amounts to the prime of the golf season. The Solheim Cup -- the women's version of the Ryder Cup -- is on this week. There have been a few interesting moments in this competition, like the Americans making Annika Sorenstam cry after forcing her to replay a 25-foot chip she had holed because she played out of turn and Dottie Pepper's comments over an open mic about the Americans being "choking freaking dogs." But this has been a one-sided deal (7-3, USA) lacking much suspense. Maybe it's time to open up the competition and do a USA vs. The World format, bringing the brilliant Koreans into the mix (given the way the Asians are playing, maybe it should be Asia vs. The World, though the American egos probably wouldn't allow that). Don't forget, the Ryder Cup was a dud until they added the Europeans to the Great Britain and Ireland side in 1979.

SPECULATIONS

Shares of Nike fell 2.5% Monday, the day after the swoosh-clad Woods lost to Yang. Related? ... More from that golf impact study: There are 25,000 charity golf tournaments a year across Canada. ... Ron Shelton has had a pretty good run with sports movies (Tin Cup and Bull Durham) so I suppose we should expect good things from a project called "Q School," though I wonder about a movie that has Tim Allen and Dennis Quaid as PGA Tour hopefuls. Maybe the Champions Tour?

JUST WONDERING

Does Y.E. Yang translate into "Jack Fleck? "... Will Tom Watson make it to the FedEx playoffs and maybe create another good story? On the strength of his runner-up at the British, he's 123rd on the list, down two from last week. The top 125 make it, so it will be interesting to see if he gets bumped. He's not playing this week.

JUST SAYING

I thought Woods was gracious enough in defeat, giving Yang credit for winning. But I thought Woods' premature departure from the 17th green was a bit rude. Woods turned his back and was stomping off before Yang cleaned up his bogey. When Woods moves, so does the gallery.

THE LAST WORD

The Grand Slam of Golf is a made-for-TV event in Bermuda which brings together the winners of the four majors. Should they even bother putting mics on the players this year? They have two who don't speak English (Angel Cabrera and Yang), one who barely speaks (Lucas Glover) and one who's better at Tweeting (Stewart Cink).


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