Tiger's out searching for a golf game

Tiger Woods is deep inside Fort Bragg this week, wearing a camouflage uniform and doing the kind of things Green Berets do.

The cover story is that he flew down on his private jet to see what military life is all about.

The real truth is, Tiger's on a secret mission.

Somewhere in the woods in North Carolina, he and the Special Forces are out trying to find his golf game.

As good as the Green Berets are, it won't be easy.

It doesn't help that Woods won't even admit it's missing.

Another in a string of disappointing majors ended early on Sunday for Woods, long before Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els put on the kind of spectacular back-nine show that once belonged only to Woods.

If you're counting — and in golf that's usually a good way to keep score — Woods is now winless in seven straight majors.

Worse yet, he hasn't even been a factor in the final round of five of them.

He's got a long way to go to rival Mickelson's oh-for-42 streak in the majors, but the tournaments are beginning to add up.

So, too, are the questions.

The player who once intimidated his fellow competitors simply by showing up on the first tee seems gone, replaced by a befuddled twin who goes about his work with an exasperated look on his face as putts race past the hole and drives go increasingly awry.

Things have gotten so bad that Woods vomited after the first hole Sunday, though he later claimed it was because of a bad sandwich.

Through it all, Woods keeps repeating the same mantra to inquiring writers, as if he needs to believe it himself.

Woods will likely never win four straight majors again, and may never match a record he once seemed destined to smash — Jack Nicklaus' 18 major championship wins.

He's got three green jackets from Augusta National, but the 10 that Nicklaus once predicted of him?

No way.

It's not because the other players are becoming more like Woods, but because he is becoming more like them.

Woods is still the greatest player of his time, but all of a sudden it's not automatic that he'll be the best player ever as most assumed when he won seven of 11 major championships and 23 of 59 tournaments during a three-year stretch on the PGA Tour.

Woods might be encouraged to know that Nicklaus was in a strikingly similar slump about the same time in his career.

After winning the 1967 U.S.

Open, Nicklaus went 0-for-12 in the majors before he won the 1970 British Open at St.

Andrews.

If Woods, whose streak began after he won the 2002 U.S.

Open, were to go winless for the same period, his streak would end at the 2005 British Open — at St.

Andrews.

For now, though, players are happy not to see him lurking around in the final round.

"Well, it doesn't suck, I'll say that," Mickelson said.

While Mickelson takes a victory tour in his green jacket this week, Woods will be behind the gates of Fort Bragg getting an introduction to military life.

It may not be a wasted week, even with a 7-iron nowhere in sight.

If Woods can't always beat Mickelson and the others anymore, at least he'll be able to outmarch them.

Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press.

Write to him at tdahlberg@ap.org.