He keeps telling us he's fine.
It's a firmer grip there, or a tweak in his backswing there. And yet through his first two tournaments of 2014, Tiger Woods has been neither good nor even close to it.
There's no cause for concern long-term -- there never is through eight rounds of golf -- but Woods is clearly off his game this year.
It's an oddity, too, because Woods usually starts seasons strong. In his 18-year career this is just the first time he hasn't finished in at least the top 20 in one of his first two tournaments. And in half of those seasons he won one of his first two tournaments.
Woods is a notorious planner -- his preperation for tournaments might be without equal. But -- he's looked not disinterested but maybe distant -- his third round at Torrey Pines was not the grinding superstar we've come to respect, if not love, over the last two decades.
Maybe he's lost a bit of his edge, maybe not. It'll take more than two tournaments to tell that but for now he's fallen out of the top five in our power rankings and will fall out completely barring a terrific performance at the Honda Classic.
You know what the great thing is about Tiger, though?
I fully expect a terrific performance.
Here are our second power rankings of 2014:
|1||Zach Johnson: Johnson is off until the Match Play Championship. He'll retain the No. 1 spot until then. Last rank: No. 1|
|2||Rory McIlroy: Stephen Gallacher recently called McIlroy's ball flight "phenomenal." He was born to be great at this sport so it's good to see him fulfill that. Last rank: NR.|
|3||Adam Scott: It's tough to properly rank golfers who take so much time off -- Scott won't be back until the Honda Classic -- but it's also tough to argue against his game right now. A threat to win every time out on any course and any tour. Last rank: No. 5|
|4||Patrick Reed: Between him and Kevin Stadler it's been a big year for guys who probably aren't athletic enough to play another sport. What does Reed care, though? He's made $1.2 million in six events this season. Last rank: NR.|
|5||Webb Simpson: Six starts, five top 10s (including Tiger's tournament), a win, and a T23. Oh and he's No. 1 on tour in scoring average and birdie average. Last rank: No. 7.|
|6||Graham DeLaet: He's knocked on all of the doors all over the country and none has opened yet. His last four PGA Tour finishes: 2-2-6-7. Sick. Last rank: NR.|
|7||Sergio Garcia: Garcia is an oddity in golf. He gets more pub when he loses than he wins. But he's up to No. 9 in the world and he'll win a big tournament (maybe a major?) this year. Last rank: No. 8.|
|8||Harris English: If after the Sony Open last year I would have told you Russell Henley wouldn't actually be the best Georgia Bulldog under the age of 25 you would have been aghast. He's not, though, not even close. Harry has two top 10s and a win in his last five starts. Last rank: NR.|
|9||Jimmy Walker: The only PGA Tour golfer to top $2 million so far this season. He's playing for the Ryder Cup now (currently 7th in US rankings -- top nine are auto-bids). Last rank: NR.|
|10||Tiger Woods: A courtesy ranking. He's been not very good so far this year. And isn't playing again until the end of February, apparently. Last rank: No. 4.|