The clock keeps ticking just as it has done for thousands of years, a methodical march that stops for no one, including Tiger Woods.
As it silently and relentlessly moves forward, its outstretched arms are beginning to open in anticipation of welcoming him into history.
To say he is the like of which we have never seen before isn’t quite true in many ways, but is true in others.
He did win major championships by outlandish margins that we have rarely seen before and he did win a significant number of events, including the modern Grand Slam.
Yet, Sam Snead won more events overall, as did Kathy Whitworth. Nicklaus won more majors. Tiger dominated against strong fields, but the annual total of prize money available to players in his era probably weakened the hunger to win.
Hogan, Byron Nelson, Snead, Arnold Palmer, Nicklaus, Gary Player and Lee Trevino all won during eras in which every tournament included a list of 25 to 30 ferocious competitors who had to win to survive.
Speaking of domination, Bryon Nelson won 11 in a row;,Tiger’s best is seven. In 2000, Tiger won nine events. Byron Nelson won 18 in 1945 and Ben Hogan won 13 in 1946.
Comparing champions of different times is not fair to anyone due to equipment changes, course conditions, travel/logistics and many other factors.
Even somebody who was fortunate enough to study various champions of different periods will suffer from favouritism based on that person’s own life.
All that can be said is every Champion has the desire to win, the heart of a champion and the skills to accomplish their goals. Bobby Jones would be a champion today and Tiger Woods would have won majors in 1929 with wooden shafted clubs.
In my mind, nobody is a former champion. They are past champions. They have not had their victories taken away. They just happened in the past.
Tiger will always be one of the greatest champions of all time, but is his reign over and to what extent?
He went from one of the longest, straightest drivers to ever play the game to one of the longest and most unpredictable after he gave up the steel shaft. He needed the distribution of the extra weight of steel to stabilize his club and keep it on plane.
His forays with different instructors is well documented, but are best critiqued by Peter Allis who said recently, `After a player knows how to hit a shot well, how much better can they do it? Why don’t they spend their time trying to hit more of them, rather than trying to hit it better?’
Gary Player thinks Tiger is confused with details and Lee Trevino, the great artisan, says, “He knows how to fade and draw the ball doesn’t he? Why does he have to improve his swing to do it? Just do it.’
I recall Tiger as the first player I ever saw terminate his swing mid-downswing when there’s a sudden noise. Talk about control and hearing. He rarely does that anymore, making me wonder if his hearing is going or are there fewer cameras following him?
Players no longer hear a stalking Tiger. Instead, players who weren’t born when Tiger roared are prancing around fist-pumping like Mike Tyson, celebrating their own Tiger-like successes.
Tiger once had the eye for the moment. He could rise up and conquer a shot, performing the impossible at precisely the precise moment he needed it, but that skill has been handed down to Jordan Spieth.
When Tiger is perched in front of the microphone in the media room, I no longer believe him when he says, “I’m hitting it pretty good. All I need is a few putts to drop. It’s a process. All I need is reps.”
I’ve heard and read this for the past six or seven years, but have yet to see enough additions to his schedule that could be classified as a significant increase in reps. More and more frequently, I watch him play and hit shots like the 260th ranked player in the world.
On one hand, I want more for him, while on the other, I wonder if the “best before” date has come and gone.
Can he win 19 majors? Not likely.
Can he win one more major? Possibly. Can he surpass Sam’s record? It’s a better bet than him breaking Niclaus’ record for majors.
Is he the victim of his own financial successes, years of hard labour, thousands of miles and time zone changes? Perhaps he enjoys his kids too much to set them aside as sacrifices for winning.
People say Tiger has a magnetic personality which according to the Neilson ratings is true, but what is also true is that Tiger’s shots once were attracted to the hole magnetically and now they are repelled.
All I know is that the model of 15 years ago now has a very high mileage and the new 2015s come with a lot more options as built-in standard equipment.
Whatever the outcome, it has been a wonderful run. He is the best player of our time and one to be included in the discussion of the great champions of all time. He sure had heart, desire and skill. I wish him the best, but I think we’ve already seen it.
By the way, my picks for Whistling Straits are Justin Rose, Jason Day and Henrick Stenson with a wild card of Rory.