Tiger Woods is so centered on winning, he's missing out on the fun of relishing his good rounds and shots.

That's the opinion of Hall of Fame star Billy Casper, who has been at the top of the game of golf and can speak from experience. Casper beat Arnold Palmer in the 1966 U.S. Open, a feat that included outplaying the legend 13 strokes in the final 18 holes including a playoff.

"It's a battle for him," Casper said. "He really made some good steps forward in the Masters, I felt."

On Monday, Woods dropped out of the Top 10 World Rankings for the first time in 14 years. Now ranked No. 12, Woods hasn't won in 18 months. He is nursing injuries to his left knee and Achilles tendon after the Masters and we may not see him play until the U.S. Open.

"He's got to realize he's gone awfully deep down and he is still expecting himself to do what he's done early in his career," Casper said. "It takes a long time to overcome the things he's had to battle with in the last year and a half."

Casper should know. He finished in the top four on the PGA Tour money list for 11 years before hurting his hand and missing four months of play. That year he finished 11th due to the injury.

"In my estimation, until he gets away from that big desire that if he doesn't win it doesn't mean anything . . . well, he's got to get it out of his system," Casper said. "He's got to accept what he accomplished at the Masters of shooting 66 one round and then shooting 31 on the front nine -- which he's never come close to doing before. Those were two great steps forward but that wasn’t enough for him because he didn't win.

"That's what makes him so great, but until he gets that out of his system and recognizes it is a step-by-step process, almost like starting over, he will struggle to win."

No doubt Woods has incurred some monumental personal and physical issues. But are his problems physical or mental?

"It's a combination," Casper said. "The swing he made on 17 in the third round when he was nearly on his knees, hitting the ball to the trap in front of the green, was some shot. No doubt he hurt himself there. But it is just going to take time for him to get himself mentally and physically ready to go again."

Couldn't we say that Woods' current state is so tenuous that it may be a reminder and signpost of how difficult golf can be?

"I think so," Casper said. "There are so many young players right now who can really play. But they don't have any consistency. You don't have a player that is dominating and finishing high up every week in the tournaments.

"There were several of us who did. There are no players like Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus who are dominating the money spots right now. They are great players. They may win one week, but they may not make the cut the next, although David Toms is doing well right now."

Toms just won the Crown Plaza Colonial the week after he finished as runner-up at the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.

"That's what you have to develop, is consistency," Casper said. "And you have to develop the attitude that if you don't win, go out and play hard the next week. That's what David has done. He's showing the young kids how a player can become consistent."

Casper donated some of his most treasured trophies to Alpine Country Club for display this past Saturday. I asked Casper if his most prized piece of hardware was in the bunch. He said no, it was at San Diego Country Club.

"It's a duplicate of the Ryder Cup trophy that only the captains of the Ryder Cup have in their possession," Casper said. "I was captain in 1979. I think it's by far the greatest thing I've ever played golf in, the Ryder Cup, because it is totally different than anything else you do."

Casper knows how it affected him and he hopes players who make that team will feel the same these days.

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"Usually you are playing for yourself, you are playing medal play, you are playing a match play but in that three-day tournament you are playing a combination of both," he said. "Until I played on the Ryder Cup, I often wondered how I'd play if I were on the team and it was such a great challenge. I made the Ryder Cup for 16 straight years. I was on eight Ryder Cups back in the time there were no captain's choices; you had to earn your way on."

Today, Casper has won the most points of any player on an American Ryder Cup team.

"You represented yourself, other members of the team, your captain and the highlight of it all was you represented your country," he said. "And if you can't get up to play for those things, there is something wrong with you."

email: dharmon@desnews.com

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