Jul. 21, 2015
While Everyone Is Burying Tiger Let's Not Forget His Greatness
(Editors note: Tiger Woods announced on Friday that he had a second surgical procedure performed on his back. He expects to return to play sometime in 2016. Woods, who turns 40, is entering the twilight of his career. Injuries could mean it is closer to being over than we ever expected. With that in mind, The African-American Athlete is re-posting a retrospective piece on Woods' career that was first published in July, shortly after Woods missed the cut at the British Open.)
Who is this guy imitating Tiger Woods? He looks like Tiger, he talks like Tiger, he walks like Tiger. However, he does not play golf like Tiger.
The fact is Tiger Woods has looked like a shell of himself on the course the past year and a half. After winning five times in 2013, Woods' battled injuries most of the 2014 season, and has played stunningly bad golf so far this season. His highest finished is a tie for 17th at the Masters.
Tiger just missed his second consecutive cut at a major, shooting rounds of 76-75 in the Open Championship at St. Andrews, a course he had won on twice before. Last month, he missed the cut at the U.S. Open, shooting rounds of 80-76.
I said in a previous post that watching Tiger struggle like this is similar to watching Willie Mays in the final days of his illustrious career. He has been so horrendous that it is easy to forget how great he has been.
Well, I am here to remind you. And I think it is critically important to do so because there is a sentiment that some want to throw out there that somehow, despite his accomplishments, he has underachieved.
I truly believe this is part of a ploy by some in the media who are simply jealous, and others who look to discredit his achievements because he is not considered a 'good guy'. His off the course issues with women, and the fact he is of African-descent are certainly factors in some people's minds.
Nonetheless, people can say whatever they want. At the end of the day, Tiger's career has been remarkable.
Consider: Fourteen major championships, including four in a row. A total of 79 PGA Tour titles, and the number rises above 100 worldwide. He has won 18 prestigious World Golf Championships, against elite fields. He once won seven consecutive Tour events. When he missed the cut at the Open, it was only the 14th missed cut of his pro career. He once went 142 consecutive events without missing a cut. He won the 2000 U.S. Open by 15 shots, which is like winning the Super Bowl 50-0.
Really, the above accomplishments are just a fraction of what he has done. We aren't even delving into his money titles, Player of the Year awards, and Vardon Trophies, nor his spectacular amateur career, or how he transcended the sport of golf like no other since Arnold Palmer. The fact golfers are playing for multi-million dollar purses today is because of Tiger Woods.
Woods is arguably the greatest player ever. And, if you aren't buying that there is only one other golfer that you can put ahead of him, and that's Jack Nicklaus, the holder of 18 major championships.
One can make strong arguments for Woods or Nicklaus as the greatest. Although the Golden Bear has four more majors, Tiger has played against stronger, international fields. Nicklaus didn't have the bevy of overseas adversaries to deal with_ just Gary Player, the South African, who holds nine major titles.
For the longest I gave Tiger the edge over Nicklaus, but his recent struggles are no where near the level of Nicklaus' poor stretches. This stretch of sub-par play from Tiger moves Nicklaus ahead in this comparison, which won't really be over until Tiger is not competing for majors anymore. They are No. 1, and No. 1a, in my mind.
Rank Tiger and Jack as you please. My only argument is if you try to put anyone else in those two spots. With all due respect to great champions from Gene Sarazen, to Ben Hogan to Arnold Palmer, to Gary Player and on to Phil Mickelson, when discussing the greatest player in the history of the game, it's a two man race.
So, the next time you hear golf analysts like the Golf Channel's Brandle Chamblee _ he with a grand total of one PGA Tour win _ saying what a hack Woods has become, if he is telling you the truth, at some point in his commentary he'll have to say: "And oh, yes. He is one of the greatest players of all time, if not the greatest."
If he tells you anything other than that, then it is just a lie.