PHILADELPHIA -- It was almost one year ago when the golf world changed.
When news first broke of a Tiger Woods accident, the report said the world's best was in serious condition. When you first hear that, not totally grasping how hospitals classify patients, you thought the worst.
So when the Woods' scandal first surfaced, my thoughts were about his well- being. Former golf editor Gerard Gallagher called me and said he was headed to Washington D.C. for a vacation, but he'd head back if things got worse.
Health-wise, things were never that bad, but things definitely got worse all right.
It's been a year and only doomsday naysayers turned out to be right. Chalk one up for the negative.
There are two ways to measure Tiger's epic descent.
The first is on the course and that was clearly a disaster. Woods failed to win a single event. His bad previous seasons were the ones he didn't win majors. Now, Woods can't even win regular PGA Tour stops.
Yes, Tiger had flashes of brilliance. In his first tournament back, Woods tied for fourth at the Masters. He also shared fourth at the U.S. Open and was certainly in the hunt for that title. Woods owns Augusta and Pebble Beach, so decent finishes, despite the layoff and personal problems, were somewhat expected.
What wasn't expected was the missed cut at the Wells Fargo Championship, the bizarre withdrawal from the Players Championship due to a "neck injury," and only one more top 10 the rest of the way on the PGA Tour. (Technically, the WGC-HSBC Championships event is unofficial, but would've counted as a PGA Tour win.)
Woods cut ties with swing coach Hank Haney or vice-versa. He finished 165th in driving accuracy and 167th in greens in regulation. Those are staggeringly bad numbers for Woods. He latched on with new swing coach Sean Foley, but did lose the No. 1 world ranking.
The on-course battles are the easiest to fix. Woods is still the second-ranked player in the world and is still one of the hardest workers in the sport. He shot a 65 in the final round in Australia a few weeks back, so Woods can salvage some things from a terrible 2010.
The biggest problem Woods might face on the course stems from the off-course garbage. When Tiger was in the hunt, his peers folded like bad origami. They knew, as did he, that Woods wasn't going to go backwards. You had to catch him and that's when you made your mistakes.
That aura is gone. Woods appears to be ordinary to his fellow competitors. That will come back with a few trips to the winner's circle, but when that happens is anyone's guess.
The now "ordinary-ness" of Woods was the biggest fall for Woods on the course.
And the fall was felt by the golf world. It was a down year for the PGA Tour and it can directly be put on Woods' broad shoulders.
According to a Reuters piece by Ben Klayman, Nielsen ratings for Saturday and Sunday on the PGA Tour declined on broadcast networks to the tune of 21%. That's a gigantic fall and clearly tells the world that fans tune in when Tiger is in the hunt like he was in 2009 and before.
Getting his fans back is Woods' largest challenge. Companies bailed on Tiger very quickly after the scandal. AT&T and Accenture left town on the first train and in that same piece by Klaymen, he stated Woods lost $35 million in endorsements.
Galleries at live events supported him more than they didn't. There were very few incidents with people yelling things at him from behind the ropes. (Although the airplane carrying the sign, "Tiger: Did you mean Bootyism?" at the Masters was off the charts hilarious.)
In a recent poll done by Seton Hall University, Woods' has a 39% approval rating. (By contrast, Phil Mickelson as a 45% approval.)
The template for regaining your mojo is Kobe Bryant. After his legal troubles in Colorado, Bryant lost most of his sponsorship, but after staying trouble- free and by winning NBA Championships, Bryant had a 49% approval in the same Seton Hall poll.
So winning cam cure Woods' ills, but he needs to do better. His media appearances have been, in a word, pathetic. Woods has picked his spots when to be interviewed and controlled things perfectly. There was Tom Rinaldi, Kelly Tilghman and most recently, Mike and Mike on ESPN radio.
Woods isn't providing much in the way of details, but is saying he's a better person and family is most important. He still just doesn't get it. Woods told Mike and Mike, "I've talked about Thanksgiving for the past year so I think I've kind of exhausted that subject."
Did he honestly say that? He has said exactly nothing about last Thanksgiving. Ever at any point. That statement pinpointed what he won't do and it's what he needs to do.
Go on "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" and let the host tear you down. Answer every question honestly, own your mistakes and that will help as much as winning.
We know you're still guarded. You're asking for to re-connect with fans, but only keep them at arm's length. Woods opened a Twitter account which is actually a great idea if he uses it. Twitter allows for humor and honesty in a more anonymous environment than he's used to. So far it's basically been "Go Stanford" and "I like wearing shorts."
If you can't be honest with people, why should we flock back to you? Your life was essentially a gigantic lie off the course and whether or not you believe we are entitled to know about his off-course activities, what I just wrote is fact.
And these off-course issues seeped onto the fairways and greens. The evidence is in the performance.
Hardcore golf fans want to come back to him, but can't until he wins or even seriously contends. Regular fans are still chilly toward him and women may never come around, but the thaw will occur with honesty. We may not have any right to it, but the truth about things will humanize him and will help.
Winning will cure things, assuming he stays out of trouble, but Woods has a long way to go.
Do you think Tiger ever realized how long-lasting the impact of his stupid decisions were?
- Ian Poulter has had a good year, but I don't know that he'll ever make a leap to major champion.
- The "designated events" proposal where top PGA Tour players would be required to play at least one of the lesser tour stops has been tabled. That would work, but how do you tell an independent contractor he has to play anywhere? And, how crappy do you feel if your event is deemed "lesser" in the eyes of the tour and its players?
- Doug Barron's suspension for anti-doping violation is over, but he didn't make it out of the second stage of Q School.
- Cell phones will be allowed at PGA Tour events next year and I don't know how this will work. Embrace the digital age, I say, but you know a phone will go off in a crucial time.
- Movie moment - Feel-good spectacular "Hoosiers" is our pick this column. Aside from the fact that Buddy, the point guard, gets bounced from the team in that first practice, then is back about four games later, what struck me was the shot after Ollie's second made free throw. ("And you will make your second shot.") Coach Dale warns the squad about getting back on defence to avoid a last-second shot. After Ollie hits the free throw, this dude chucks one from half-court that hits the back of the rim. We are talking inches from all cotton. Should've listened to Coach Dale.