Sunday, August 12, 2007

Is It Too Early to Canonize Saint Tiger Woods?

In the 100-degree heat of Tulsa, Oklahoma, the greatest golfer of my lifetime ceaselessly toiled to his 13th major victory. At 31, he showed no ill effects from the heat, no sign of being off his game nor of backing down.

In the span of two weeks he wins the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational by eight strokes, then he marches on to a convincing victory in the PGA Championship for his 59th tournament win. Saying that the greatest golfer in history was someone like Nicklaus, Hogan or Palmer will always be defended, but the strength of these arguments are rapidly weakening.

It is impossible to make straight-up comparisons between golfers of different generations if they’ve never played against each other. In the case of Tiger Woods, he is clearly the best golfer of this generation and will likely become the best golfer of any generation. Why?

Tiger Woods, has won at every level; from the juniors to the professional ranks. He has won in every condition, on every course, won from behind, with a lead, against the best in the world and against one-hit wonders. He doesn’t make mistakes, is relentless, has a higher gear when it is needed, makes the shots he should and makes the shots he shouldn’t. He has the aura and mystic that he is invincible (note the 13-0 when he has the lead in a major). He is photogenic, well-spoken and doesn’t get into personal trouble Tiger has had public personal tragedies and personal triumphs. He doesn’t have bad habits, doesn’t gamble away, doesn’t get caught in compromising situations.

He’s a saint and a marketing wunderkind. He is the unofficial spokeperson for golf. Unlike Michael Jordan, who arguably is the greatest basketball player in history, Tiger has to win all of these tournaments on his own. Jordan had a team around him.

Tiger plays a schedule that is probably half as active as most of his closest competitors and has now won his 13th major. Jack Nicklaus, considered the greatest golfer to date, won 18 majors with his last coming when he was 46. If Tiger just wins one major a year from now on, he will be 36 (ten years younger than Jack when he won his last). What does one do when you’ve won everything there is to win in golf?

It is obvious that Woods has crushed the spirit of his closest competitors. Ernie Els, once considered one of the best golfers in the world tells it this way: "The statistics will tell you, yes, it is over. But as a competitor, I can't sit there and tell you it's over. I can't ever do that" (Remember, this was at the conclusion of the 3rd round).

Tiger will be the greatest golfer in history and competitors like Els, Mickelson, Singh, and Garcia will have to be content to say they were there to witness it firsthand.

How many majors does Tiger need to win before we can anoint him a saint?

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At 11:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't put Garcia in with Ernie, Phil and VJ. He signed a wrong scorecard after the PGA third round and when informed of it by his fellow competitor before he left the scorers tent replied "Who gives a s##t" and went home.


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