Tiger last won a major in June of 2008, which coincidentally was the last major before the PGA tour started drug testing. Sure, Tiger was connected to Canadian PED guru Dr. Galea, has had a series of tendon, ligament and knee injuries, and saw his body weight shift on his 6'1" frame from 175 to 220 to 180, but no one says he did steroids? Sports fans recall sports writers insinuating plenty about players like Nomar Garciaparra who added muscle, lost in and then had tendon and ligament injuries, but Tiger remains untouched. Besides the possibility of Tiger not using the juice anymore, the game itself has changed in ways that remove his former advantages. He is not the oddball who comes in doing things no one else is doing, but instead is one of the many and now 15 years older.
Tiger training hard with weights makes sense from an athletics part, but for the world of golf, was a bit odd for 1997. It is hard to think of it now with how technical many athletes and amateur fitness enthusiasts have become, but even in the late '90s, sports media churned out articles on baseball players starting to lift regularly and using creatine by the truckload. Michael Jordan was secretive about his weight lifting regimen so others would not know, and he would retain an edge. That was in the early '90s. Tiger was playing a game where it was laughable about the physical effort, and the old man's game often had middle aged and even 30 year old professionals who looked soft. It was a skill sport. People looked at the Casey Martin case, and many saw Casey's side because "Golf, heh, like they exert themselves." When Tiger burst onto the scene, he was playing guys like Davis Love III and a young Phil Mickleson who did not look like they had touched a weight in years. Look around golf today. Many of the younger guys now have what appears to be muscle on their frames. They look like regular athletes, not golfers, but also not 'roided up NFL players. Even Phil Mickelson looks more fit than he was 30. If it allows for them an extra 10-15 yards on their drives, Tiger's famous drives from 1997, are no longer ahead of the pack. They all have better endurance to power through Sunday.
Another item, that I have mentioned about Tiger is along the lines of the hyperfocused sports parent becoming more widespread now. The guys who make it professionally are genetically blessed in many ways, but it also comes down to practice and time invested. Leaning on an old New York media canard, saying Keyshawn Johnson was athletically gifted and Wayne Chrebet was a hard worker denigrated both the hard work Johnson put into his craft and the genetic gifsts that Chrebet had. Tiger's own success actually encouraged this odd parental investment, as people saw how Papa Woods was
This is the golf world that Tiger plays in now. It is not a staid sport that had little shake ups in approach for years, and Tiger walks in as a 21 year old physical phenom. Tiger is now a 40 year old that looks at his competition and sees many younger men, all working out, who are not afraid of the possible 300 yard Tiger drive (if he can anymore) because they can unleash one as well. This is great for golf fans whether they like Tiger or not. For Tiger haters, the twilight of Tiger's career will be full of him throwing clubs, swearing and stomping around frustrated. For those neutral like me, the sport will see a new wave of well rounded players, and hopefully because more of them are taking advantage of new sport science, the majors will be more competitive. For fans of Tiger, he will win another major. When it happens, it won't be a boring Tiger wins by 10 over a overwhelmed field. He will have to claw, fight and beat back the hungry youngsters who have what it takes to win.