Tiger, Tiger, blowing up bright

We may learn an awful lot about Tiger Woods in the upcoming weeks, even more than we thought we did last winter.

This weekend’s debacle at Bridgestone taught us a few things. Apparently, when Tiger is in the process of shooting his worst weekend of golf as a professional, he’ll do things his legions of fans have never seen before — like give up.

Part of the reason he closed out his tournament at 18 over par and 30 shots behind winner Hunter Mahan was because he was flailing — first while trying, then while just trying to get away. To see him walk up to a shot and hit it without sizing it up from every angle, or even giving it a second thought, was amazing. To see him do it multiple times was even more shocking.

Tiger Woods is coming off his worst showing as a pro and looks like anything but the No. 1 player in the world, even though he still is for now.

He didn’t talk to the media until after the final round, and admitted then he’s not having fun. Well duh, as you say, shooting 18-over is never fun. Neither is all the stuff he’s going through in his personal life, the divorce that can’t be a surprise considering he brought it on himself with his extramarital dalliances.

But the golf course, or any field a professional athlete has performed on, has always been the refuge of those who try to escape their off-the-field issues. It’s where they’re most comfortable, the place where they truly belong and can forget about all the distractions and get down to business.

But Tiger did anything but, and this past weekend was just the most glaring example. The thought that he’s shot just two rounds under par in his last 17 on the course is hard to comprehend, and that he stands 85th on the money list this year is part of the result. CBS, which usually only televises the final few hours that involve those in contention, has to be sweating over the fact that it hasn’t had him on a final-round telecast in two months.

It seems like a break from the game might be in order, but he’s committed to some upcoming tournaments, including this week’s PGA Championship — which is often one of the highest-scoring tournaments on the calendar and isn’t likely to do wonders for his confidence. The last time he shot four rounds over par was at the 2003 PGA.

But would a break even help at this point? Maybe so, considering how lost and unhappy he looked at a course he’s dominated over the years. He’ll probably get one come October, since Corey Pavin would be hard-pressed to include him on the Ryder Cup roster with his recent play and current mental state.

I find it odd that so many people are worried about whether he’ll be part of the Ryder Cup team. That would seem to be the least of his concerns with everything else going on, and it looks like the team would be better off without him right now. Sure it might seem shocking to say, but the mental state he’s shown on the course isn’t one that seems ready for the demands of the jingoistic us vs. them showdown to take place in Wales in two months’ time.

I’ve never been a big fan of Tiger, as I’ve rarely been a fan of the favorite, of anyone who makes the outcome seem predetermined and seldom lets anyone get a win in edgewise. In some bizarre way, maybe this is good for him. He’s just finished doing something that almost every other pro golfer has done at one point or another in his career — put together a terrible tournament. The fact that it was at one of the rare tournaments without a cut only exacerbated the situation, forcing him to play four rounds instead of what would easily have been only two almost any other week.

This, far more than the scripted admission and apology and all the other carefully controlled aspects of his public attempts at redemption, prove he’s actually a human being after all. That’s what I wanted to see more than anything, that he’s more than the trophy-claiming automaton he’s seemed for so much of his career. Now he can better understand how the other half — heck, just about the rest of the tour — lives.

The scene in the post-tournament press conference where a media member said he and many of his colleagues were surprised by Tiger’s performance, but just as surprised that Tiger wasn’t, was telling. When asked why, Tiger quickly responded, “It’s been a long year.”

It looks like that year might get longer before it’s over. But when it is, maybe Tiger will be more prepared to take on the 2011 season — and the rest of his life.


What a tangled Webb

Being a UAB graduate, I’m a fan of UAB sports — no  matter how hard that is at times.

I’m also a fan of “UAB Blazers” on Facebook, and multiple times in the past week or so I’ve gotten updates from this fan page with newly uploaded photos of former quarterback Joe Webb during his time with the Blazers along with this intro: “The NFL’s Minnesota Vikings are discovering what UAB fans have known for years now: Joe Webb is a heckuva good quarterback! Check out these awesome action shots of the former UAB star!”

To see what an athlete Webb is, check out this video of him on YouTube from during his training for pro day and the NFL combine:

The Vikings were one game away from the Super Bowl last year, and had an established trio of quarterbacks unlikely to be going anywhere in Brett Favre, Tavaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels. And no matter how little people think of Jackson and Rosenfels, they do seem firmly entrenched in Minnesota.

Heck, Minnesota even seemed prepared to go into last season with one of them as the starting QB … until Favre decided to join the Vikings right before the season began. The rest, as they say, is history. Favre had one of his best seasons ever, but ended with another crushing OT playoff loss with his last pass of the year being picked off.

Sure, he was going to need surgery during the offseason and he’s now 40, but after two false starts with retirement no one really predicted aloud that he wouldn’t be coming back for a 20th season this fall. And dragging it out kept Favre firmly planted in the public consciousness, where it almost seems he needs to be.

Now ESPN has been reporting all morning that he is finally hanging them up, that the third time is the charm. His ankle hasn’t healed as quickly or as well as he would have hoped, and supposedly he’s texted his teammates that he’s done.

Announced as a wide receiver when the Vikings drafted him in the sixth round because of his athleticism, UAB's Joe Webb is back at quarterback in camp and may have a better shot to make the team if Brett Favre is really retiring.

So is this good news for Webb, a sixth-round draft pick who was the Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year in 2009 and became the first player in NCAA history to pass for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons? Maybe. But UAB has a pretty dreadful history with its players in the pros, and we’re talking about a player who was just moved back to QB after working out at wide receiver.

The program has only been around since 1996 at the Football Bowl Subdivision level, with just 13 former Blazers reaching the pro ranks. Only two are currently active: Jets linebacker Bryan Thomas and Falcons star wideout Roddy White. The latter is in fact one of only two UAB offensive players to reach the NFL, the other being forgotten running back Carl Fair who spent three games on the Browns’ roster in 2001.

The good news for Webb is that neither Jackson nor Rosenfels is such a player as to automatically eliminate him from the QB discussion. Even if Webb has an outstanding camp though, his lack of experience on a team trying to keep winning right now would likely make him the No. 3 man, though one source says he could beat out Rosenfels. Jackson did go 8-4 as the Vikes’ starter in 2007.

Also a possible scenario is Minnesota signing someone else’s castoff before the season begins, relegating Webb to the practice squad or worse. Teams with deep playoff aspirations often love another veteran backup around, just in case.

Webb’s future is anything but certain, but if it is true that Favre is stepping aside at long last  — and it’ll be tough to believe until December rolls around and he still hasn’t suited up — it could keep him around a little longer.