The golfing world was recently excited about the impending return to competitive play of Tiger Woods. His last appearance on tour was at the Wyndham Championship in August 2015. He had been scheduled to play at the Safeway Open, October 13-16, 2016 but unexpectedly withdrew just before the tournament started. Speculation as to the reasons why became a sort of spectator sport in its own way. Tiger gave this explanation, “After a lot of soul searching and honest reflection, I know that I am not yet ready to play on the PGA TOUR or compete in Turkey. My health is good, and I feel strong, but my game is vulnerable and not where it needs to be”.
But hang on because here we go again. Tiger has said he is returning to play at the upcoming Hero World Challenge, December 1-4.
Nobody in the golfing world during the past 20 years has been scrutinized as intensely as Tiger Woods, both on the course and off of it. Everything he has done pertaining to golf from changing coaches and caddies, to swing changes, to exercise and equipment in his bag, has been over analyzed and critiqued. A written and video library about Tiger is immense. Even outside the ropes, his life was never free from some media coverage. The infidelity scandal in November 2009 was a monumental case in point.
Is Tiger the best player of his generation? Absolutely! Is he the greatest golfer of all time? Ah well, that’s the rub but I answer yes. Cross generational comparisons of “greatness” are always difficult but records speak for themselves. The one record that stands for golfing greatness is winning what are called the “majors”. This is even more important than total number of tour wins. Jack Nicklaus has the most major wins with 18 victories [but he is only 3rd all time in total wins].
In less than 20 active years on the PGA tour Tiger has amassed a phenomenal legacy. From the tender age of 2 when he first appeared on the Merv Griffin show, Tiger was building his legend as the greatest golfer of all time. He had a stellar amateur career capped as the only player ever to win 3 US Amateur titles. Since he turned pro in August 1996, his accomplishments toward that goal has been nothing short of breathtaking.
- Total pro wins – 106
- PGA wins – 79
- Majors – 14
- 11 PGA Player of the Year awards
- won the inaugural FedEx Cup in 2007 and again in 2009 [only multiple winner to date]
I had the incredible privilege to watch Tiger win his last major in the US Open at Torrey Pines in 2008 in a Monday playoff; on a injured knee no less! Shortly afterwards he had surgery on the knee [he has had 4 in total] and would miss the next several months from the tour. So how did he do when he came back to play in 2009? He went on to win 6 times that year including securing that 2nd FedEx Cup bonus.
This singularly focused, hyper-competitive player went into every tournament expecting to win by intimidating his opponents with his play and crushing them with his scoring. And more often than not, that is precisely what he did. After his stellar year in 2009, 2010 and 2011 added no wins to his ledger. Many speculated that the backlash and pressures associated with the very public fallout from his infidelity scandal and subsequent divorce contributed to a lack of intensity and form on the golf course. And then Tiger proved so many wrong yet again, when he won 3 times in 2012 and 5 times in 2013. His last win on tour was at the 2013 WCG Bridgestone Invitational. Since then, he has been hampered by 2 back surgeries [and their subsequent rehabilitation] as well as poor play on tour causing another round of speculation from observers and pundits alike.
Can he win again, much less a major? I believe that he can. Considering he will be 41 years old at the end of December, is his game strong enough to win again, against a younger generation eager to write their own stories of success? While many golf writers are divided on this matter, the man Tiger is chasing for most major wins, Jack Nicklaus, had this to say;
I don’t think he’s done. I think Tiger is going to win more tournaments. I’m very surprised he’s not here. Maybe he’s not ready. But he’s too good of a talent not to win.
With his health no longer a limiting factor, what does Tiger have to say about his continued pursuit of his legend. In a recent interview with Charlie Rose,
Rose: You learned mental toughness. You learned how to win. You still have that.
Woods: Oh, yeah. That part hasn’t left me. I know how to get it done. I just need to get into a position to get it done.
Rose: Do you believe you’ll get 18 majors?
Woods: To be honest with you, no.
Rose: You don’t?
Rose: You’ve accepted that?
Woods: I’ve accepted I’m going to get more. [Laughs]
Many may question such bravado, particularly since his last major win was that 2008 US Open. In just a few days, all golf fans will get a look at the 2017 edition of Tiger the golfer. I for one, a fan from the beginning of his career, wish him nothing but future successes in fulfilling his goals to become “the greatest player of all time”.
Speak up! But since I cannot hear you, tell me what you think in the comment field below.