Has Tiger Woods lost his killer instinct?
Tiger Woods after his first round 76

Tiger Woods after his first round 76

You didn’t have to speak to Graeme McDowell or Darren Clarke at St Andrews yesterday to know that the game is hard.

As McDowell slipped to a level par 72 and Clarke missed every putt in sight to go from two under after three to signing for a one over 73, they were feeling sorry for themselves until they heard about Shane Lowry taking eight at the Road Hole to turn a 69 into a 73 or 14 time major winner Tiger Woods having to dig deep to post a four over 76.

“You don’t have to be that far off to look stupid,” said Clarke, who had to hack out sideways and backwards from bunkers all over Fife before eventually getting to the clubhouse. 

“If the ball can conspire to stay out of the hole some way or another, that’s what is happening.”

Woods probably felt the same but as Clarke pointed out: “It’s a hard game and the golf ball doesn’t know who is hitting it. 

Tiger is working away and I spoke to him this week. He is happy with what he is doing and he feels he is playing really well and maybe he is pushing a little bit too hard. 

“He is hitting it and swinging the way he wants. But it’s a tough game if things aren’t going your way and things aren’t going his way.”

McDowell knows all about things not going your way these days having slipped from 15th in the world on December 31st to 55th this week

“I think we are all shocked as players with how good Tiger Woods is and has been, to see him struggle as he is right now,” McDowell said. 

“I think it speaks volumes about what this game is about. I am standing here talking abut lack of confidence and belief in what I am doing and you see a guy like that whose career highlight reel would take days to watch. 

“It’s an amazing game and I think that’s why we have to count ourselves very fortunate to have and opportunity to be out here on a Sunday afternoon and perform. It’s a tough game.”

Woods played alongside the Australian Jason Day, who outscored him by 10 shots and found it tough to watch his idol struggle.

“I grew up watching him,” Day said. “He was my idol growing up. He's why I'm a professional and why I chased the dream of becoming a professional. It's tough. 

“The good thing about it is I saw him struggle a little bit before and he came back and got to No. 1 as well. So I know that he can get back out of this, it's just depending on how much he wants it.”

Still, it’s a selfish game, as Day admitted. 

“Even though he's my mate and I grew up watching him and he's my idol, I've still got to go out there and compete against him, so I'm going to try to play the best I can.”

Day suggested that Woods is no longer the assassin of old.

"He had that kind of killer instinct," he said. "I think today he was just struggling a little bit, needed to put his mind somewhere else, and that's kind of how he dealt with it.

"But before I think the way he used to kind of get back at things, he used to get pissed off at himself and kind of got him back to where he needed to be mentally on the golf course. But today he was just struggling a little bit getting into the greens.

He just wasn't hitting it close enough. He made a few mental errors around the greens and then just tried to press from there. It's just difficult to do."