Point/Counterpoint: Is Tiger still the favorite?

Updated: September 15, 2004, 10:45 AM ET

He's the world's No. 1 golfer, 330 weeks running, but he hasn't won a major in 26 months.

His eight major championship titles are more than Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson and Davis Love III combined, but he has as many wins this year as guys like Rod Pampling and Heath Slocum -- one.

Tiger Woods transcends all races and cultures, but his play as of late has only incited arguments. When the dust settled on this one, we tried to answer the question, Is Tiger still the man to beat?

Is Tiger still the man to beat?

Tiger Woods is no longer the easy pick, but that doesn't mean he isn't a good one. And this week, he just might be a great one.

For most of the past year, Woods has been working on a swing change that he says is "close.'' The skeptics are out in full force, and it is easy to see why. Woods has not won a stroke-play tournament all year, and has gone 0-for-9 in the major championships he seemingly owned.

It's just a matter of time.

As soon as Woods gets it sorted out, he will be a force again. Maybe Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh will have gained enough confidence to chase him down once in a while. But they are threatening Woods' No. 1 ranking more because of his failures in relation to his incredible past than due to them elevating their games to his previous level.

Woods has been hampered by poor starts in the majors. He seems to put himself in a hole after day one, then must play a style that does not suit him. Remember, all of Woods' eight major victories came after he held or shared the third-round lead.

This year, a first-round 75 doomed him at the Masters. He shot a first-round 72 at the U.S. Open and had to play catch-up. At the British Open, his 70 left him chasing again.

Two weeks ago at the Buick Open, Woods shot four rounds in the 60s. He made just one bogey for the week. He was 21 under par. Yes, he finished tied for third. But that's pretty good golf. And it was his 10th top-10 in 14 tournaments.

All from a guy who doesn't have it quite together -- yet.
-- Bob Harig


Remember the days -- oh, way back in 2002 -- when "Tiger vs. The Field" was en vogue fodder for talk show hosts entering each major championship?

The premise was, Would you rather choose Tiger to win or any one of the other 155 players competing in the event?

Those days are long gone.

Tiger is mired in an 0-for-9 majorless drought, while his closest competition -- Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh -- isn't merely close to him anymore; they've surpassed Tiger's accomplishments during the past two years.

Still, we hear the same reasoning, the same logic, the same -- dare we say -- excuses time and time again.

He sounds like a 16-year-old boy bragging to his buddies in the locker room about his date last night; in other words, Tiger keeps telling us he's close, he's right there, he's going to break through any day now, but he just can't seal the deal.

So, maybe Tiger really is close this time. It doesn't matter. So are Phil, Ernie, Vijay and a host of others. Heck, when guys like Ben Curtis, Shaun Micheel and Todd Hamilton have won majors more recently than Woods, it tells you the world has caught up to the man who has led it for 330 straight weeks.

Yes, Tiger Woods is still the favorite, in the sense of the word that he is the player that most fans like to watch play, but no longer should he be the odds-on favorite to win a major.

Those days are long gone.
-- Jason Sobel