By Skip Bayless
Page 2

I miss Tiger Woods.

I still root for him. I cringe for him. But I no longer trust him, because he doesn't trust his rebuilt swing, especially with a driver in his sweaty grip.

For the first three rounds of the U.S. Open, Woods also had shockingly little faith in his putter. That changed in Sunday's final round – until it really counted. So once again, we were teased and ultimately tortured by the New Tiger, who gives us only flashy flashbacks of the player who, for a three-year stretch, conquered golf the way no man ever has.

Tiger Woods
Tiger just couldn't get a good handle on the greens at Pinehurst.

Man, I miss the Old Tiger.

His performance on Sunday reflected the horizontal stripes in his shirt. Woods always wears red on Sundays – his power color. But this time he wore alternating red and orange neon stripes. Sometimes, his game was pure power red. Other times, it was Halloween orange, scaring you like the bogeyman.

Who was that guy behind the Tiger mask?

With everyone who's anyone in golf trickling down Pinehurst's leaderboard like balls off the crowned greens – with the Singhs and Mickelsons begging Woods to win the second leg of the Grand Slam – the New Tiger lost to Campbell.

Not Chad Campbell – losing to him wouldn't have been quite so shameful. Chad Campbell has the game to win two or three majors.

Unless I fell asleep and had a bad dream – Tiger Woods lost to Michael Campbell.

No offense to Michael, who in 1995 led the British Open after three rounds. Michael has always had a fair amount of unrealized potential. But Michael was playing in this Open only because the United States Golf Association held its first qualifying tournament in Europe.

"I almost didn't come," said Campbell, who described himself as "little ol' me from New Zealand."

Please, I'm taking nothing away from Campbell's valiant victory. He made the clutch shots and putts that Tiger couldn't. Yet Campbell won only after Woods lost.

Playing ahead of Campbell, Woods bogeyed Nos. 16 and 17. Repeat: Tiger Woods bogeyed when he once birdied. Yes, the New Tiger butchered those two holes just the way he bogeyed 17 and 18 on Sunday at the Masters. But at Augusta, he won because of a Nike commercial of a chip on 16 that was equal parts genius and luck – and because his playoff opponent was not Singh or Mickelson or Els, but Chris DiMarco.

It was as if the golf gods were rooting for a Slam. First DiMarco, now Campbell? If Woods had won the Open, who would have been the last man left in his way in the British Open at one of Woods' favorite haunts, St. Andrews – Jean Van de Velde?

I heard Saturday night from a caddy for a prominent player, who said: "It's over. Retief Goosen is an assassin. Best clutch player in the world, and he has a three-stroke lead going into the final round of a tournament he's won twice. Forget it."

I was convinced.

Then Goosen shot an 81. He came out of a wedge-shot approach on No. 2, and the ball and Goosen's game rolled off the right side of the green. This will go down as the worst final-round collapse by a world-class player in major-championship history.

This was beyond Greg Norman in the '96 Masters. That was Norman, with a six-shot lead, going head-to-head in the final twosome with Nick Faldo in the tournament Norman wanted to win more than any other.

Norman shot a 78. Goosen (nine bogeys and a double bogey) didn't par even half the holes. So that left only Campbell between Woods and the Slam's second leg.

But the New Tiger's bogeys on 16 and 17 gave Campbell a four-shot lead. Those stunningly mortal failures gave little ol' Campbell the confidence to shoot at the flag on the par-3 17th and to take a run at a 22-foot birdie putt, which fell right in the heart, as the heart of every Tiger fan fell.

Tiger Woods
Would the Old Tiger have looked this happy next to an opponent who had just defeated him?

Naturally, the New Tiger gave us one more electrifying tease with a birdie on 18. Yet Campbell strolled to the 18th tee with a three-shot lead. He wasn't even threatened enough go with an iron – he hit with the driver. Even though he pulled it into the deep rough left, he spoke to the TV camera as he walked after it, wishing a happy Father's Day to his dad back in New Zealand.

If the New Tiger had merely gotten pars on 16 and 17, Campbell would have walked jelly-legged onto the 18th tee with a one-shot lead.

I could be wrong … but with only a one-shot cushion, I don't believe Michael Campbell could have pulled off a par to win the U.S. Open and avoid an 18-hole Monday playoff against Tiger Woods. And I do not believe Campbell could have beaten even the New Tiger with the Carolina throngs roaring him on over 18 holes.

The Old Tiger would have won this Open by two or three shots. The old one would have hit more fairways, made more putts, and led Goosen going into the final round. Woods, a classic intimidating front-runner, has never won a major coming from behind.

The New Tiger can't sustain a rally because he's sensationally inconsistent.

He's still the world's most talented player. Each week, a part of his game will be Old-Tiger awesome. At the Open, he and his hot new ball led the field in driving distance (325.9 yards). His iron play was masterful – even beyond Vijay Singh's.

But through the first three rounds, he was dead last in putting, and he hit only 50 percent of the fairways. The Old Tiger hit 71 percent for the year in 2000.

On Sunday, he didn't drive or putt for dough.

Woods missed the first three fairways and bogeyed Nos. 1 and 2, dropping him eight shots back of Goosen. Yet tenacity is the one trait the New Tiger shares with the Old. He will not give up.

He also won't quit kidding himself.

"I played beautifully all week," he said. "I just didn't feel well any day with my putter."

Beautifully? If you keep driving the ball in the deep rough at a U.S. Open, bad things will eventually happen. On the par-4 16th, the second shot he hacked out of the long Bermuda grass left him an uphill chip to the green. Yet the New Tiger – who still has golf's best short game – miss-hit the chip, leaving it 7 feet short.

He just doesn't have the indomitable confidence he once had. A decelerating New Tiger stroke left the par putt right.

On 17, he charged a birdie putt, then missed a 5-footer coming back for par. The Old Tiger used to make those like they were tap-ins.

Afterward, Woods inadvertently made a startling admission: "I made a big, giant step since Augusta."

Yes, too often he was Tiger "In the" Woods at the Masters. He was very lucky to win it.

He hasn't been the same since he dumped coach Butch Harmon, who taught him a swagger as well as a swing. He obviously doesn't quite trust the new swing taught to him by Hank Haney. It's also possible Woods doesn't practice as long or as hard now that he's married. He plays with the same fury at majors – but not with the same confidence.

Swallow your pride, Tiger. Go back to Butch.

We miss you.

Skip Bayless can be seen Monday through Friday on "Cold Pizza," ESPN2's morning show, and at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN's "1st & 10." His column appears twice weekly on Page 2. You can e-mail Skip here.



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