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No talk of slump for Woods

Tiger Woods no longer has a major trophy to call his own, but at least he still has a sense of humor.

He played like your average Eldrick on Sunday, at one point four-putting from the fringe. When asked to describe it, Woods said he thought the first putt was good.

"Then I hit a terrible putt and third putt," he said. "But luckily, I hit the fourth putt right in the middle."

OK, it wasn't exactly the Improv, but considering the mood one might have expected, it was pretty good shtick.

It's not every day Woods leaves a major with no other major to fall back on. In fact, it's been almost four years since he didn't own at least a Masters, U.S. Open, British or PGA title.

Woods is intimately aware of that, but now that he's completed a reverse Tiger Slam - no majors in one year - his career has entered a new phase.

Tiger Woods - The Lean Years?

"When I win, obviously everything seems: He can never lose," Woods said. "And all of the sudden, I don't win a couple of tournaments. All of the sudden…"

People are breaking out a word he seems to dislike more than brunettes - Slump.

Fortunately, nobody used it after Woods shot 2-over-par 72 Sunday to finish tied for 20th. It was invoked Saturday after his 75, and the post-round interview session went up in smoke.

Woods was more reflective Sunday. He said he hit the ball well, but he again couldn't hit a putt into Lake Michigan. He insists his game isn't that far off.

It sounded pretty much like the assessment he gave after the past three majors. At what point does the winless streak become a slump?

Woods defines a slump as when a golfer completely loses his game. By Tiger definition then, there never will be a slump. But he also won seven of 11 majors between 1999 and 2002. So by Tiger standards, an 0-for-4 skid at least has provided the golf world with Topic A for debate.

"I wouldn't worry too much about Tiger Woods not winning a major for a year," Tom Watson said. "How many years did Jack Nicklaus go without winning a major?"

Three years, during his prime. Nicklaus went 0-for-12 when he hit 27 years old, Woods' current age. That appears to be pure coincidence, so far.

"The difference in Tiger's game is, his bad rounds used to be 71 or 70," Johnny Miller said. "Now his bad round is 75 or 76, and I call that a bit of a slump."

In the past year, Woods has shot his worst professional rounds at the Masters (76), British Open (81) and Saturday at Olympia Fields. Observers second-guessed Woods for not playing aggressively enough early in the tournament, when the course was soft and inviting.

The winding track largely took hitting a driver out of Woods' game plan. When he hit greens, he rarely left himself easy putts. The way he was putting, though, there is no such thing as an easy one.

Maybe golf isn't as easy as just showing up and winning.

"I've never thought it to be simple," Woods said. "Anyone who plays the game of golf knows it's not easy, and it's very fickle."

He said there's nothing physically wrong, and that he was well prepared despite playing only two tournaments between the Masters and the U.S. Open. At this stage of his career, is the hunger still there?

"I hate to say it, but it's increasing," he said.

Despite the slump/non-slump, the rest of the PGA Tour probably hates to hear that. The last time he underwent such a drought, Woods bounced back with the greatest run of golf in modern history.

"When you're playing bad, it's a lonely world out there," he said.

At least he could sort of laugh about it Sunday. There were other things to think about, too, such as the Father's Day gift he sent his dad. It was a painting.

"Kind of a landscape," Woods said. "Mountains, trees and meadows."

And like Tiger's World, at least for now, there was no major trophy in sight.

 

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