Unfair standard being applied to TigerSeptember 27, 2013
When his daughter ran onto the green at East Lake on Sunday and grabbed her dad around the leg as he walked off the course, Tiger Woods' stern look changed to a smile, a big grin filling his face as a tough day, a tough year, had come to a close at the Tour Championship.
Just as Woods has seen fit to have daughter, Sam, and son, Charlie, attend a few of his tournaments this year, he would later allow that being at the top of his game week in and week out is a struggle, all but acknowledging that his days of unbelievable and unrelenting consistency in the game are complete.
And yet, the expectations remain the same.
Woods, 37, won five times this year, led the PGA Tour money list, captured the Vardon Trophy for the lowest scoring average and gained more world ranking points than any other player by mile. He finished the PGA Tour season as No. 1 in the world, with a hefty lead over No. 2 Adam Scott. He was voted PGA Tour Player of the Year for the 11th time.
Of course, there was no major championship, a fifth year without adding to his tally of 14, and for some reasons that puts a cloud over the other accomplishments. Woods, to be sure, is partly to blame for this, having put so much emphasis on major titles throughout his career.
But five wins, including a Players Championship, WGC-Cadillac and WGC-Bridgestone, should never be diminished. In the past 20 years, just three players have managed the five-win feat - Nick Price, Vijay Singh and Woods, who has now done it a whopping 10 times.
Still, there he was Sunday, talking about a "satisfying" year but focusing more on the negative than the positive.
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"I wish I could have been a little more consistent in some of the events," he said. "I'm always looking to improve and become more consistent day in and day out. There's certainly some weeks where I was just off. I always wish I could play a little bit more consistent and have a chance each and every time I tee it up."
Welcome to the real world of professional golf, Tiger.
Woods played 17 worldwide events, missed just one cut, had five wins and two other top-5s. But including his missed cut in Abu Dhabi, he had six finishes of 30th or worse.
That's golf, and it happens to just about everyone.
Scott had a career year, winning his first major at the Masters - and finishing top 5 in two others - to have the best year of any player in the majors. He later added a victory at the Barclays. But he also had five finishes of 30th or worse.
Phil Mickelson will long be remembered for his Open Championship victory, the stunning way in which he closed at Muirfield a week after winning the Scottish Open. He also came within a lip-out of a 59 at the Phoenix Open, where he also won. But Mickelson had eight finishes of 30th or worse.
It is accepted in golf, but with Woods it is always viewed as a calamity, even though at age 37 such falloffs should be understandable.
The last time Woods was player of the year, he won six times and had just three finishes out of the top 10 in 2009. (He also added a victory in Australia.) The year prior, when he won the US Open before shutting down his season for knee surgery, he won four of the six tournaments he entered. In 2007, he had 12 top-10s in 16 starts, including seven victories and a major.
That is greatness defined, not the norm. But Woods is held to that standard, as if he can keep rattling off that kind of production with his 38th birthday approaching.
Woods took the unusual step this year of holding his son in his arms after he walked off the 18th green victorious at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Later, his daughter would attend the Deutsche Bank Championship, and Woods took great joy in telling the story that Charlie taunted Sam about getting to see Dad win while she got shut out.
For Woods to allow that peek into his life is rare. So is his admission that golf is not conducive to the kind of success he enjoyed for so long.
"I can live with the fact that I grind each and every day," he said. "There are days where I just don't have it. I don't have my game. Game doesn't feel right. Body doesn't feel right. Things just don't work. But I still grind it out and post some numbers."
Woods feels more comfortable sharing glimpses of his private life with his kids. And he doesn't mind admitting, rarely, that things are not what they used to be with his golf game.
That doesn't mean Woods won't remain fiercely private, or that he won't chase multiple victories and more major championships in 2014 with the same fervor, getting frustrated along the way.
But it is an indication that times change - as should the standard by which he is judged.
Bob Harig is a senior golf writer for ESPN.com