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Tiger strikes no fear, forget about him winning another major

It was just under a year ago when I made the prediction as part of dueling columns with colleague Ron Kantowski.

We were asked to take a side on a lingering question within the world of golf.

I believed my stance then.

I do so even more today.

Tiger Woods has now gone five years without winning a major championship — 1,828 days to be exact — and remains stuck on No. 14 in his pursuit of equaling and passing the 18 won by Jack Nicklaus.

Or, more specifically, Woods last captured a major before crashing his car into a tree outside his Florida mansion, thus setting off one of the most famous infidelity scandals ever to rock the sports world and bringing a whole new meaning on how to tip one’s waitress following Sunday morning pancakes.

(Who knew? I usually just add 15 percent and call it a day).

Woods last won a major around the time a kid named Justin Bieber was making singing videos at home and not a soul outside his family knew he wanted to entertain.

Yes. That long ago.

He will also win another about the same time Mike Sanford makes a triumphant return as UNLV’s football coach while citing his desire to build a championship team while overcoming the country’s worst locker rooms.

Which means never.

Forget the part about invincibility. Woods hasn’t owned such a trait around peers since winning the U.S. Open on one leg at Torrey Pines in 2008, back when a certain female skier was still married to a fellow U.S. team member named Thomas Vonn.

Fear is a powerful and elusive quality for any athlete to hold over those pursuing the same goals. Michael Jordan was dominant enough to emit such anxiety. Wayne Gretzky was. Babe Ruth. Muhammad Ali. Woods was once. He’s not any more.

It’s not that other golfers don’t respect him and rightly acknowledge Woods remains the world’s best — he has already won four times on tour this year and tied for fourth at the Masters — but red on Sunday long ago became in their eyes just another colored shirt with a swoosh on it.

Woods was never in contention at Merion this past weekend, finishing the U.S. Open at 13-over par, his worst showing at the championship since he went 14-over as an amateur in 1996.

More than lacking the mental edge he owned for so long over others, more than the tour field being as deep today than at any time in its history, more than the incredible luck it still takes to win a major, Woods’ opportunity to again stand alone atop the sport’s four biggest events each year is hampered mostly by, well, his game.

His putting stroke abandoned him at Merion, the one area during those runs of major wins that was more loyal to his game than he was unfaithful in his marriage. Used to be at majors, he never saw a par putt inside 8 feet that wasn’t made before he addressed the ball.

But now we hear him complaining about the speed of greens, about his putts breaking more than he believes they will. He wins now mostly on courses of which is he most familiar, which I assume means if his drought at majors does end, Augusta would be a huge betting favorite as to where it happens.

Some feel he doesn’t prepare for majors as he once did, a possible reason as priorities change when you have two young children. Some believe age and transitions both personally and professionally have in many ways eliminated much of the killer instinct that defined Woods at majors. Some believe he is pressing too hard for No. 15.

He doesn’t adjust to difficult courses as he once did. He doesn’t exhibit the same level of confidence when things go wrong.

Woods is today where most assume he should be — ranked No. 1 in the world, leading the FedEx Cup standings and scoring average, having earned more money on tour this year than anyone.

But he is also five years removed from his last major victory, from a time when Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were being bailed out by the treasury department.

The only Belieber in the world was some kid in Canada posting YouTube videos of himself.

Yes. That long ago. He is oh-for-16 in majors since.

Woods will be favored to win the British Open next month.

Suggestion: Find another for your betting pleasure.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on “Gridlock,” ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.

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