Missing Tiger on opening day of the US Open
BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — Dear Tiger:
Don't know what you had planned for this week, maybe picking up the kids from preschool or cleaning out that bedroom closet you've been meaning to get to. Understand you're kind of out of your normal routine, but maybe the guys at the club will want to do lunch or play some cards.
You're not really missing much at Congressional, where the biggest news is they switched around some holes since the last time the U.S. Open was played here. Something about making things more interesting on Sunday, where someone from somewhere other than the host country will surely be hoisting the trophy over his head.
Believe me, this tournament needs something to make it interesting. You'll probably be out on the yacht this weekend, but if you tune in, I challenge you to tell me the difference between one long tree-lined hole at Congressional and the long tree-lined hole that follows it.
The course is missing something, but the field is missing even more. Without you there's no swarm of humanity moving from hole to hole, no fans climbing trees for a better look, and no one high-fiving the stranger next to him when you hole yet another crucial putt.
I'm sure you'll agree with me that Rory McIlroy is a fine young golfer with a fine future. The graceful way he handled his final-round blowup at the Masters this year won him a lot of admirers. So did his trip to Haiti earlier this month to see if he could do anything about the suffering there.
But he's not you.
My guess is you'll resist the urge to turn on the big screen and watch it all unfold. After all, if the Open is really as hard as Phil Mickelson made it appear Thursday, you wouldn't have won it on just one leg at Torrey Pines three years ago.
I know you're missing your first U.S. Open since turning pro, but I did see your caddie here with Adam Scott's bag over his shoulder. That got me thinking that you may be gone longer than you've let on or that all wasn't right with Team Tiger, but I'm sure you'll explain everything when you finally do come back.
Your new swing coach is here, too, though no one seemed to notice. Sean Foley was just one of 10,000 guys walking around with fanny packs, though you'll be happy to know he did stop long enough at the driving range to diagnose the woes of some of his other clients.
Hope the knee is feeling better, and those reports of you in a walking boot and on crutches aren't true. Even if they are, I'm pretty sure you could contend this weekend among the pretenders to your throne.
I mean, the course isn't that tough, Tiger. They've obviously been putting water on the greens, and the pins were set in positions even a freshman congressman could handle. You would have torn this place apart, and probably been back at your hotel leading by four shots now.
But it's more than that. Wandering around Congressional during the opening round were golf fans who paid good money thinking they were going to watch you play. It used to be almost all of them did that so they could cheer for you to win, but I'm sure you've found out by now there are also those who cheer for you to lose.
But they cheer one way or another because you are Tiger Woods.
If nothing else, you would have created some buzz. A few F-bombs shouted from the tee surely would have livened up things a bit, even if you were out there hobbling between shots.
Anyway, I know you miss it, even the fun in the interview room, where you like nothing better than to engage in some clever repartee with sweaty scribes. The guy who gave you the beat down in the PGA Championship a few years back was in there after shooting an opening 68, but it just wasn't the same.
Still, Y.E. Yang seemed to perk up when I asked him about you. Turns out he misses you. Sort of.
"Half of my heart is disappointed," Yang said. "The other half is probably, I wouldn't say thrilled, but I know that my chance is a little bit better because Tiger is not in the field."
Your buddy Phil probably thought that, too. The guy has never won an Open, and he had to be salivating as he walked up to his first shot of the day knowing you were out of the way and the road to victory was clear. So what does the poor devil do? He promptly hits his first shot in the water, then spends the rest of his day trying to hack it around trees and out of rough as high as cornfields.
You might think the top three players in the world rankings would make their move in your absence, too, but none came close to breaking par. Doesn't really matter because we know who the true No. 1 is, don't we, Tiger?
Maybe you've just intimidated everyone for so long that no one knows what it's like to go out and take charge of one of these anymore. Sure, McIlroy shot what seemed like an effortless 65 to take the first-round lead, but surely you remember what happened to him the last time he had a lead in a major championship.
Well, that's about it from here, Tiger. Time to go out and see if that is really Sergio Garcia lurking just off the lead or just some impostor who knows how to putt. I'll give him your best, though I'm sure he's the last one who needs a reminder that you're not in the field for this one.
No one needs to say it, but we're all thinking the same thing.
Get well soon. We miss having you around.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg