Left field

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Can Tiger recover from his Buster Douglas moment?

August 12, 2010

One happened in Tokyo in 1990, the other in Minnesota in 2009. One marked the beginning of the end for Tiger Woods reacts after a missed green on the 18th hole during the third round of the WGC Bridgestone Invitational golf tournament at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, August 7, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Munden (the predominate athlete of his sport, the question now is, did the other also mark the end of dominance for Tiger Woods.

Mike Tyson’s reputation seemed to intimidate opponents before they even stepped into the ring. Before the fight in Tokyo, Tyson was unbeaten as a professional and routinely knocked his foes out in the first round.

That all changed 35 seconds into the 10th round when massive underdog Buster Douglas knocked Tyson out for the first time in his career, cementing one of the greatest upsets in boxing. It was a knockout Tyson would never completely recover from.

Tyson would go on to win subsequent fights and even regain a title for a brief time. But the man who some thought early in his career would be considered the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time had become a punching bag both in and out of the ring.

Like Tyson, intimidation was also a huge part of Woods’s success. He was 14-0 when he was atop a leaderboard heading into Sunday of a major. But during the 2009 U.S. PGA Championship, Yang Yong-eun overcame a two-shot deficit in the final round to defeat Woods by three stokes. At the time it seemed little more than an inconvenient speed bump in his quest to surpass Jack Nicklaus’s 20 major championships.

The first crack in the wall of invincibility that Tiger had built began to show.

Contributing to Woods’s struggles on the course were his well-documented problems off it, starting with an early morning car crash last November that lead to the revelation that he was having multiple extra-marital affairs.

Woods has won only two tournaments since his loss to Yang, neither of which were majors. This from player that had dominated the PGA Tour since 1996, winning 71 tournaments including 14 major championships.

At last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Woods finished 78th, better than only one golfer in the field who played all four rounds.

But like Tyson, who some believed was already starting to decline prior to his stunning loss to Douglas, has Woods’s wall been crumbling for some time?

Woods only has two major wins since 2006, more than some golfers win in a career but well off of the ridiculous pace he set earlier in his career when he captured six in a little over two years.

The final major of the 2010 begins Thursday at Whistling Straits. Woods had trouble the last time he played there in 2004, finishing tied for 24th, one of his worst results at a major.

A win seems unlikely, but if Woods duplicates his 2004 result the pressure to win will build and continue until at least April 7th, 2011 when the U.S. Masters begins.

Tyson never had a chance to avenge his loss to Douglas. Woods, meanwhile, will be partnered with Yang for the first two rounds at Whistling Straits. I wonder if the Tyson-Douglas fight will come up?

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