By Steve Silverman
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Tom Brady was left contemplating the opportunity that was slipping through his fingertips in the final minute of Super Bowl XLIX. With just seconds to go, the Seahawks were about to punch in the winning touchdown from the 1-yard line, and that would have brought Brady’s Super Bowl losing streak to three games.

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But thanks to the play of undrafted rookie free agent Malcolm Butler, that did not happen. An ill-advised pass was intercepted, and Brady and the Patriots had their fourth Super Bowl title. Instead of getting labeled as an aging quarterback who had once been brilliant, Brady’s supporters are calling him the greatest of all time, and they have plenty of ammunition to support their claim.

Fame and success are wonderful aphrodisiacs, but they are surely fleeting.

As Brady was getting his due, Tiger Woods was back at his Florida home trying to figure out what had gone wrong with his golf game. Just miles from the University of Phoenix Stadium where the Super Bowl was contested, Woods failed to make the cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

While he played poorly and failed to break 80 in the second round — he shot an 82 — he said he was fine physically, and he returned to competition on Thursday at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego. He was all smiles and had plenty of confidence that he would get it back together.

Why wouldn’t he have confidence? While he has plenty of critics, Tiger has 79 career victories on the PGA Tour, which is second to Sam Snead all time. He also famously has won 14 majors, a figure that has remained stagnant since 2008.

But instead of turning it around, it got even worse for Tiger. His back stiffened up on the second or third hole, he lost control of his ability to direct the flight of the golf ball, and he had to withdraw as he played the back nine of his first round of the tournament.

Woods had been trying to rebuild his swing and his game, but he fell apart and his body continues to break down.

The withdrawal from the tournament means that Woods has finished the final round of an official 72-hole PGA tournament just twice in the past 501 days. His recent resume is saddled with plenty of MCs (missed cuts) and WDs (withdrawals).

Along with his physical ills and poor results, Tiger has to contend with savage personal attacks that date back to the infamous end of his marriage in 2009. That’s when Tiger’s serial history of extramarital affairs bubbled to the surface and shunted his life and career to TMZ and other gossip pages.

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The gossip factor is probably worse in golf than in any other sport. Insiders attack a player’s game and his character in the same tweet and dismiss his efforts with a sense of finality in every 140-character message.

All players are subject to scurrilous attacks, but no player gets more of it than Woods.

It’s tiresome, petty and ultimately shameful on the part of the gossips, but it is not ultimately fatal.

Any player who chooses to engage in name-calling and petty behavior makes matters worse, but it’s far easier to focus on the task at hand and get back to work.

Woods appears to have learned this. He has been through the social wars many times, and while there have been many who came to bury him, it’s not necessarily over for him.

Remember, just two years ago Tiger won five tournaments and was the PGA Player of the Year. None of those tournaments were majors, but he showed that when he is on his game, he can still be the best.

He is clearly nowhere near the best right now. He has to get healthy and get his game together, and he has to do it in that order.

He may or may not be successful, but those who attack his character, psyche and personal life have nothing to do with the outcome. It is clearly up to Woods, and his ability to recover.

Maybe Brady can relate. If not for one play from an undrafted rookie defensive back with 20 seconds to play, Brady would have been branded as a three-time Super Bowl loser by many of his critics.

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The great ones ignore their critics and let their talent do the talking. Woods has done this many times, and he has to rally and do it once again if he is to get the last laugh.