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Oct 31st

Moments in Sports: The curious case of Tiger Woods

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tiger woods drives by allisonWill Tiger Woods return to form and surpass Hall of Fame golfer Jack Nicklaus as the career leader in major championships?

I don't care, and the case of Woods' career ain't curious; it all makes sense. And what can't be denied, is where Woods' name stands in golfing history right now.

More specifically, I don't care what Tiger Woods said back in his no facial hair days, pinning the judgment of his career solely upon Nicklaus' heralded record of 18 major championships. The pundits' conversation of his career follows suit, and focuses solely upon Woods' deficit in major wins; but it should not.

Tiger Woods is currently second in all-time major championship wins with 14. His primary rival, Phil Mickelson, sits far behind him with a respectable count of five majors. The only other active player of note is South African Ernie Els with four.

All other considerable names on the majors list are long retired. Following Woods, the list goes as follows: Walter Hagen 11, Ben Hogan, nine, Gary Player, nine, Tow Watson, eight and Bobby Jones and Arnold Palmer with seven each.

These names constitute the proverbial Mount Rushmore of golf. A very curious notion is that Woods does not seem to have the daily respect of a living legend. The mention of Woods as possibly the greatest golfer ever is met with a brief recognition, then a more vested reminder that he remains short of Nicklaus. Yet, there are other historic recognitions that should govern Woods' career.

Beyond majors, there is also the accounting of overall PGA tournament wins (these are common entry PGA events, with less stringent qualification requirements). This list is headed with 82 wins by long-retired Sam Snead. Woods is second with 79 wins ... and counting, while Nicklaus is third with 73 tournament wins (majors are included in these records). Phil Mickelson, with 42 wins, is the closest active competitor. Vijay Singh of Fiji, is third among active players with 34, and then there is a precipitous drop thereafter.

Last year Woods managed to garner the PGA Player of the Year award, after earning five wins and in excess of $8.5 million. That result would be a remarkable year for any player in the long history of golf. As a matter of fact, most, if not all of Woods' annual results – when he has played – would be career highpoints for the vast majority of golfers not mentioned in the brief lists above ... and most of them, too.

Thus, if Woods does not lift another sand wedge, then he's still the modern era benchmark for golfing success. Commentators may skew to mention major wins, but comments from active players suggest their understanding that they will never reach the heights of Tiger Woods, in this life or the next. The overall conversation regarding Woods should align with the thoughts of his peers.

Woods has inspired a new generation in golf. He transformed the game into an actual sport, with fit and muscular competitors, versus former days when many golfers would smoke cigars, have an occasional mid-round spirit, and swing loosely around their cheerful bellies.

On balance, of late, Woods is suffering from his historic training regiment and prodigious childhood demonstrations – he is currently recovering from back surgery (we will cover more from this angle in Part two). Some of you may recall his appearance on the show "That's Incredible" in 1981.

PGA television viewership is also suffering without Woods' presence. When Woods is playing well, the world tunes in. The Masters tournament held in mid-April saw a dip from 3.5 million viewers in 2013, to 2.2 million this year during the first two days of competition. During Woods' recent stumbles, due to some well-known causes, this dip in ratings has become known as the "Tiger Effect." Even ticket prices to events have plummeted in his absences.

Tiger Woods has had innumerable effects and affects on the sport of golf. And though his mind remains laser focused on his original goals, golf fans, and all fans of transformational figures, should view his existence with a little more r-e-s-p-e-c-t.
 

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