UPDATED with clarification from Graeme McDowell: It's not easy to write off Tiger Woods. Like nervous cavemen in one of those 70s dinosaur flicks, pro golfers prod the fallen giant with their spears, not sure if it's really safe to start carving up the carcass.
Take Graeme McDowell, who's been pointing out for four years that Woods has lost his intimidation factor and while he still won't declare the king dead, saying that he's "lost that sort of force field of invincibility around him" is probably as close as you can get.
No-one gained more than McDowell when Woods hit that fire hydrant on Thanksgiving Day 2009.
He replaced the 14-time winner in the Chevron World Challenge at Thousand Oaks just days later, finished second to Jim Furyk and earned enough world ranking points to finish the year inside the world's top 50, clinching his place in the Masters and the US Open.
The rest is history. He won the US Open, came back to Chevron and beat Woods in a playoff that year and hasn't really looked back since.
When he beat Woods in that playoff for the World Challenge in 2010, holing putts from all angles, he hinted for the second time that year that the cracks that were beginning to appear in the famous Woods aura.
Now, it seems, he's not holding back any more.
In 2010 he said: “I’m definitely a guy who says that golf needs Tiger Woods and we need him back winning tournaments.
“I think he can play his way back into having that mystique again. There’s no doubt. He’s just got to do the talking with his golf clubs now.
“He used to appear invincible. Of course he’s made himself appear more human in the last 12 months. At the end of the day, we’re all humans and we all make mistakes and we all hit bad golf shots.
“But there’s something a bit special about his golf game, and I fully expect that mystique to return as the golf clubs start doing the talking again.”
At the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational a few months earlier, McDowell suggested that Woods' red-shirt was no longer intimidating.
"That's his trademark," McDowell said. "Really, I think that's all it is right now. What it means to him is obviously a different thing. What it means to the rest of us ... it's not really something to be intimidated by anymore. Mystique is not something that's measurable It's when you stand on the tee box with him and you get the feeling you're in the presence of greatness. When someone shows themselves as flawed and human ... what Tiger was doing all for years and years was superhuman. He was imposing himself on players just by being there. Until he starts winning again, he's not going to get that back."
Woods has won nine times since then but he hasn't won a major since 2008. He's still the world No 1 and while McDowell hedged his bets at Bay Hill last week saying: “He never ceases to amaze us.... You’d never put anything past him. He could prove us all wrong and show up at Augusta, win by 10 and you guys will be back to the keyboards and waxing lyrical, and away we go again. Who knows?”
Still, the Ulsterman is clearly not convinced that we will see the old Woods again.
During the same event he told PGA Tour.com's Brian Wacker: “He’s lost that sort of force field of invincibility around him. The aura is not as strong.
"He's still Tiger Woods, still the greatest player ever in my opinion. I don't remember the first time I played with him but there was a real ‘wow’ factor. He was playing a different sport than me. But guys get older, stuff happens.”
Early on Thursday, it became clear that McDowell's bald quote denied us much of the nuance and context of what he really meant to say on Tiger. Taking to Twitter to explain fully given the worldwide coverage his "force field" comments generated, the Portrush man wrote:
I spent 90% of my press conference last week at Bay Hill being asked questions about Tiger, speculating about where his game is right now...— Graeme McDowell (@Graeme_McDowell) March 27, 2014
...Many of my quotes have been taken out of context and spun quite negatively. It's hard for me to comment on Tiger in the early 2000s....— Graeme McDowell (@Graeme_McDowell) March 27, 2014
...I can only say that he has raised the bar so much in the sport globally and players are so much better equipped to win these days...— Graeme McDowell (@Graeme_McDowell) March 27, 2014
...He seems more beatable nowadays simply because the players around him are better and have more belief thanks to Tiger moving the needle.— Graeme McDowell (@Graeme_McDowell) March 27, 2014
McDowell's matchplay aura is clearly still strong as he helped Europe to a 5-0 whitewash of Asia on the opening day of the EurAsia Cup in Malaysia.
Playing with Jamie Donaldson, he helped in a 3 and 1 win over Gaganjeet Bhullar and Nicholas Fung at Glenmarie Golf and Country Club.
McDowell, who secured the winning point in Europe’s victory in The 2010 Ryder Cup, tipped his cap to partner Donaldson, who carried the last pairing home after falling 3-down early on.
“We somehow managed to make the turn at 1-down which was huge and then this guy (Donaldson) just played phenomenal on the back nine, and I just had to just chill out and hang with him a little bit. It was great to watch,” said McDowell.
Thursday’s Fourball Results (Team Europe first):
Miguel Angel JIMENEZ/Pablo LARRAZABAL bt Thongchai JAIDEE/ Kiradech APHIBARNRAT 2 & 1;
Thomas Bjorn/Thorbjorn OLESEN bt Koumei ODA/Hideto Tanihara 2 Holes;
Victor DUBUISSON/Joost LUITEN bt Prayad MARKSAENG/SIDDIKUR Rahman 3 & 2;
Gonzalo FDEZ-CASTANO/Stephen GALLACHER bt Gaganjeet BHULLAR/Anirban LAHIRI 4 & 3;
Graeme MCDOWELL/Jamie DONALDSON bt KIM Hyung-sung/Nicholas FUNG 3 & 1
Friday’s Foursome Draw (Team Europe first):
9:40am: Miguel Angel JIMENEZ/Pablo LARRAZABAL vs Thongchai JAIDEE/ Kiradech APHIBARNRAT
9.55am: Thomas Bjorn/Thorbjorn OLESEN vs Prayad MARKSAENG/KIM Hyung-sung
10.10am: Victor DUBUISSON/Joost LUITEN vs Koumei ODA/Hideto Tanihara
10.25am: Gonzalo FDEZ-CASTANO/Stephen GALLACHER vs SIDDIKUR Rahman/Anirban LAHIRI
10.40am: Graeme MCDOWELL/Jamie DONALDSON vs Gaganjeet BHULLAR/Nicholas FUNG.