Wednesday, April 13, 2005

This Tiger has Earned His Stripes

Tiger Woods did it again on Sunday – winning his fourth Masters Green Jacket at Augusta. He again proved to the world that he is in fact, the greatest golfer walking on this planet. Defeating Chris DiMarco on the first playoff hole on Sunday didn’t just win him another major tournament, it took him another big step towards the number that he’s been staring at for several years…18. Eighteen major titles by Jack Nicklaus is what Tiger is eyeballing like an animal on the prowl. Tiger took home his ninth major at the age of 29 and Nicklaus didn’t win his ninth until he was 31. Will Jack’s record be broken by the great Tiger or will he fall short? I’m going to predict that he’ll win 20 majors.

Woods has a better game than Nicklaus ever had and is using equipment that golfers of the past wish they could’ve played with. But the next time you happen to watch Tiger play, take a good long look at him. He’s a physical specimen. I remember watching John Daly and Colin Montgomery when I was a kid and thinking, “these guys don’t look like athletes.” They were great golfers, but would you fear playing them in one-on-one basketball with $50 on the line? Even Phil Mickelson looks like he has more fun at the concession stand than playing eighteen holes.

My point is - Tiger is so driven to succeed that he does everything and anything to win. I love that. He works on his game, changing his swing a little more than a year ago because he wasn’t satisfied with his results. Tiger lifts weights so that his already booming drives go a few extra yards farther. He challenges himself to be better at specific parts of his game that other pros loathe at, like his short game. He’s the Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Joe Montana and Hank Aaron of golf. I think from reading and watching interviews with Jack Nicklaus, even Jack realizes it. Jack was the greatest golfer ever in my eyes until Sunday. Sure the Golden Bear still leads Tiger by a solid nine majors, but Woods has another fifteen years to reach out and grab the throne. Fifteen years multiplied by four majors a year and you’re looking at sixty shots to win nine more…it’s going to happen. Not mentioning the fact that Tiger owns Augusta. The course is so perfect for his game. Not too long and I’m sure he dreams about walking down the fairways in his sleep. He obviously is pretty darn comfortable playing there after winning it four times in less than a dozen tries.

Tiger’s competition has gotten tougher and guys like Mickelson, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Chris DiMarco and Retief Goosen are sure to win some majors over the next decade but can they all be on top of their games all the time? That’s what it will take to consistently defeat Woods. And sometimes it won’t be enough. DiMarco played one of his best rounds of golf last weekend and still couldn’t beat Tiger as he lost on the first playoff hole. Imagine this, and how mentally draining it must be for the rest of professional golf – you play one of the best rounds of your life on the center stage and you still don’t win…that’s why Woods is the greatest. When he’s on his game – there’s no one in the world that can stop him…not even Jack Nicklaus in his prime.

"Realistically," Nicklaus said, "he might very well be a better player than I was....Records are made to be broken, and it would be great if he breaks mine. I just want to be around to shake his hand if he does it."

Yeah Jack – I hope you’re there too. Because as great of a golfer as you were and still are, it’s time for the world to realize that we’re seeing a master in Tiger Woods.


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