Tiger Woods' old game plan might not be good enough anymore
Zach Johnson beat Tiger Woods on Sunday and why the result might be a good thing for Tiger.
The craziest part about the ending to Sunday's Northwestern Mutual World Challenge actually wasn't Zach Johnson holing out after a drop on No. 18.
Nor was it Tiger Woods missing a four-footer on the first playoff hole to give Johnson his first win at the 18-man tournament.
And it wasn't even NBC trying to get Woods to break down Lindsey Vonn's skiing technique.
The craziest part of it all was that Woods blew a four-stroke lead with eight holes to play.
Now this isn't a "Tiger Woods don't got it anymore, y'all, he done" column. Far from it.
Woods ran the exact game plan he wanted and didn't get his usual result. One of his first two rounds was a beast and he tried to close on the weekend with pars (which he, effectively, did).
Again, he had a four-shot lead with eight holes left!
It didn't work.
And it didn't work not because Woods played poorly or because he's not on top of his game (like I said, he basically parred out over the last 13 holes on Sunday).
It didn't work because there are a lot of golfers who do not care any longer that he's Tiger Woods and have some cojones of their own to call upon.
Johnson didn't sound like a man worried about the 14-time major winner.
"I mean, you want to play with him and you want to be with him coming down the stretch on a Sunday. I mean, that's just what you want as a competitor. That's what I want as a competitor."
Granted, this is nothing new for golf -- gamers willing to go at Tiger -- it's just that now there seems to be a lot more of them.
Woods said it himself on NBC after his first-hole playoff defeat.
"He got me," Woods said.
And you know what, that's pretty great for golf.
That's great for golf because maybe this will help revolutionize Woods' game plan on the weekends. Maybe he'll start to see that to beat the Zach Johnsons and Phil Mickelsons and Adam Scotts of the world, he has to be less conservative in the final 36 holes.
It's great for golf because an aggressive, pin-seeking Woods on the weekend is the apex of links entertainment. He has never really given it to us in big tournaments but he might have to in the future if he wants to win big down the home stretch of his career.
Woods talked about his decision-making on No. 16 on Sunday, a par five he actually birdied (the only birdie he made over the last 13 holes). He sounded a little stunned that his strategy didn't deliver.
"I thought that was a good prudent play and I ended up making four, but four just got me a half on the hole. And then looked like he almost made one on the next."
Woods is a game manager. He's Alabama in a world of Auburns and Texas A&Ms and Oregons.
All of a sudden it's not working as well as it used to -- especially in majors. Pit enough Oregons against Bama and one of them is sure to crack the code.
Look at the 2012 US Open or the 2012 British Open -- he's getting lapped in the majors on the weekends because his conservative "I'll beat you with my mind" ploy isn't enough anymore. He's going to have to swing it.
That Alabama-esque game manager might have to channel a little Gus Malzahn and freewheel a little more often in the next five years.
That's great news for us as golf fans because a freewheeling Tiger on Saturday and Sunday at big-time golf tournaments is all kinds of fun.
Maybe he'll stay his conservative self -- and smart money is probably on this -- but part of me hopes he adjusts. He's the greatest artist this sport is ever seen and his Picassos deserve weekend television.
Johnson said it brilliantly after taking down the champ on a crisp December afternoon at Sherwood Country Club.
"He seems to bring out the worst and the best in you, you know. But I love that."
"He's the best I've ever played with."
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