This time last year, the golfing world was praising Martin Kaymer for his ability to make his way around Pinehurst No. 2 en route to lapping the field to win the U.S. Open.
The big story coming out of the Chambers Bay this weekend is Jordan Spieth and winning his second straight major.
Spieth can no longer be called the future of American golf because he is currently the best golfer the U.S. has teeing it up. If he continues his ascent, Spieth has an opportunity to forge a great rivalry with Rory McIlroy.
The Spieth-McIlroy rivalry will be the next best thing for golf since the Tiger Woods era.
Woods dominated the sport like no one else since Jack Nicklaus. It always felt like the rest of the field was playing for second if Woods was in the tournament. Nicklaus was that good. Arnold Palmer was the same way in his prime.
Woods pulled off what people have dubbed “The Tiger Slam,” by claiming four straight major championship victories. He couldn’t do it in the same season, but he won the U.S. Open, the British Open and the PGA Championship to close out the 2000 season and captured the Masters the next year.
It was still impressive.
Not to rest on his laurels or on a golf swing the majority of his competitors and the world envied, Woods elected to tear it down and rebuild from scratch.
This was crazy. It wasn’t unheard of, but the only professional golfers who elected to do that weren’t the No. 1 player in the world. After making a complete overhaul of their swing, those golfers rarely put themselves in contention to win tournaments, let alone majors.
But Woods bucked convention and elected to toss aside the swing he perfected — winning seven of his first eight major championships with it — under Butch Harmon and deciding to team with Hank Haney.
Woods continued to be the best golfer in the world and inched closer to Nicklaus’ mark of 18 major titles. Woods won another six majors and was just four behind the Golden Bear.
Once again, Woods was not satisfied. He felt the need to make another change to his swing and brought Sean Foley in to make the “required” fixes.
To be fair to Foley, Woods was never healthy enough to see if this new swing was going to get him past Nicklaus. Maybe it was, but last winter Woods decided to make another move and jettisoned Foley in favor of Chris Como.
This time Como is not considered a swing coach, but rather a swing consultant. Whatever you want to call Como, Woods isn’t the player he was 15 years ago. In fact, Woods isn’t the player he was five years ago.
When Woods was the best golfer in the world, he was “must-see TV.” He still is, except for all the wrong reasons.
Viewers now watch Woods make the same type of mistakes we hackers make on Saturday afternoons with our buddies. The only difference is that none of us have won millions and millions of dollars sinking 5-foot putts for birdie on the world’s best courses, have video games named after us or wear clothes with our own names on them.
Woods, like Ponce de Leon, has been searching for something that might not exist — the perfect golf swing. During the years under Harmon, Woods might have come as close as anybody could get. Woods was scary good and everyone in the world knew it.
But Woods felt the need to tweak when none was needed. Woods is like a beautiful woman who believes her ear lobes are too low and goes in for plastic surgery after plastic surgery to fix a flaw that isn’t there.
At this point in his career and all the changes Woods has made to his swing, there could be too much scar material for him to ever be the golfer he was once.
Reach managing editor Shawn Stinson at 910-817-2671 and follow him on Twitter @scgolfer.