Gary Player: ‘Tiger Would Have Won 21 Majors Had He Stopped Taking Lessons’

Fifteen years ago, Tiger Woods brought Pebble Beach to its knees and won the U.S. Open by 15 strokes. These days, the 39-year-old looks nothing like the golfer who won 14 majors from 1997 to 2008.

Woods posted one of the worst days of his career Thursday, finishing with eight bogeys, one triple-bogey and just one birdie in the opening round of the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in University Place, Washington. Woods had four bogeys in his first six holes – the worst start of his U.S. Open career – and finished with an 80.

It was Woods third time shooting in the the 80s this season alone.

What has happened to his game?

“Tiger Woods was on the way to being the greatest athlete the world had ever known,” Gary Player said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “He was on the way to breaking every conceivable record. He would have smashed them all to pieces. He wins the U.S. Open by 15 shots and then he goes and then listens one after the other with all these different pros, gets himself all confused. If he never ever had a lesson after he won the U.S. Open by 15 shots, he would have won a minimum of, in my opinion, 22 (or) 24 majors – because he was so far better than anybody else in the world and ever was.”

From 1996 to 2014, Woods played 1,200+ rounds of golf and shot in the 80s just once.

He’s done that three times in his last 15 rounds alone.

“Now, will he go down as the greatest golfer ever?” Player asked. “Unless he keeps winning, no. So to me, it’s so sad because we need Tiger Woods. First of all, he’s a man of color, which can help Africa. It can help Asia. It can help so many places where there’s always been a white world champion. And it was such a refreshing thing to see a man of color come along and do well. Besides that, he’s a very charismatic guy. He played in a way that was never seen before, hitting shots out of the rough that nobody else could ever, ever duplicate. So we need him to come back. Let’s hope that he does.”

Player said Woods has hurt himself by continually tweaking his swing and technique.

“Not even a question,” Player said. “Not even a doubt. Not even a debate. He had perfection. He had the ultimate perfection, and I looked at swings of his whilst he was at his best. It was so good, and his swing has deteriorated to such a degree it’s unbelievable.”

But can he get it back?

“Only God knows that,” Player said. “He’s got a lot of energy in the tank. He’s got a great focus in his mind. But if you don’t have the right theory, you can’t perform. So let’s pray he gets it back.”

Woods tees off Friday at 11:28 a.m. ET. He is paired with Rickie Fowler and Louis Oosthuizen.

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