June 21, 2010 2 Comments
As I watched the beginning of the US Open on Sunday, it was hard not to think that this was Tiger’s day. With Tiger hitting a near impossible birdie on seven and the leader blowing six shots in four holes, it was Déjà Vu all over again. I don’t care who you are, but when you see Tiger in your rearview mirror, look out! (Objects in mirror are closer than they appear). It seems like in the past few majors Tiger has played, he has never quite finished the deal (finishing top six in seven of his past eight majors). It is no coincidence that Tiger has never won a major trailing going into the final day. Tiger just hasn’t been put in that situation enough. You can be quick to blame Tiger’s recent off-field events for his failure to win, but this has been happening for two straight years now. Every analyst was saying Tiger is approaching his prime, only to fall short of winning six straight times. Hard to think Tiger hasn’t supposedly reached his prime but we never know (see Tiger’s 2000 majors).
As we wait for Tiger to pass Nicklaus, here is one interesting stat for you: Nicklaus not only was the most major winner but most runners-up major winner as well. So Tiger finishing in the top five once again might not be such a bad thing (After all, this is only the 3rd tournament he has played in eight months). But then again, he is Tiger so there are no excuses.
And how great would it have been for Tiger to win on Father’s day. For those who are not familiar with Tiger, his dad was a significant influence in his life, and maybe the reason for his great success. So when I saw the new Nike commercial of Tiger’s dad talking to Tiger, I understood its significance. Ever since his dad died in 2006, Tiger has only managed to win two majors, and has never quite been the same.
For those who play or who have ever played, you know golf is not an easy sport. I will be the first to tell you, golf is not for the weak-minded. Tiger Woods would not be where he is today if it wasn’t for his mental toughness. With the skill set of Tiger’s, golf is more about him vs. himself rather than the rest of the field. Tiger will admit when he doesn’t play up to par, it is because of his lack of focus, not his lack of effort. Breaking a score of 100 is considered a great day for some and breaking 75 is considered a average day for Tiger.
Golf is also the one sport where when you do bad, you can’t win. Unlike other sports you can’t rely on your teammates to pick up the slack. You can’t tell me Kobe Bryant won game 7 of the finals with his 6-24 performance. I’m not an expert but it seems like it would be tough if Tiger won, only hitting the fairway on 25% of his drives. This makes Tiger’s past accomplishments all the greater. But maybe too great. Tiger said it himself, “I expect a “W” this weekend.” And don’t we all.
Unlike team sports, golf is not a sport where you consistently root for the underdog. Because lets be honest, you’re not going to hear the name Graeme McDowell any time soon. People root for greatness. Just like in the 90s’ with Jordan, you can’t help but want to witness greatness. You want to be able to tell your kids someday, that was the best golfer who ever played and I was a witness.
Being the best athlete of the 2000’s, Tiger has built great expectations for himself. At this point, when Tiger doesn’t win a major, I am very disappointed. I am spoiled by Tiger, the one who would flaunt his greatness on the course, the one who the entire field feared. I do believe Tiger is on his way back to this plateau, but my patience is growing thin. Not many players can finish fourth in consecutive majors and be told that he is having an off year.
As I was watching Tiger’s poor play on Sunday, I couldn’t help but remember the Tiger from past. The Tiger who would wear red on Sunday, the one who smelled blood from the other competitors. I didn’t see this Tiger yesterday. In fact, Tiger wore a black vest over his traditional Sunday red. Could this mean that he is becoming cautious of his play? The Tiger I knew never laid up to settle for par, the Tiger I knew tried for eagle on every hole. I blame the media for this! This off-field fiasco has taken away some of his competitive drive. Tiger is quickly recovering from his absence, but time is growing short. Any player would dream to finish top five in all the majors this year, but not Tiger. Tiger knows that without a “W“, he is not successful. Tiger’s interview summed it up best. When asked what positive thing he can take out of this weekend, Tiger replied, “Nothing at all.” That is the price of greatness; if you’re not first you’re last.
Never has an athlete revolutionized a sport like Tiger Woods. Tiger Woods put golf on the map, and without him it’s not nearly the same. Just ask the PGA, down 50 percent in ratings with the absence of Woods. The payouts in golf nearly doubled since Tiger’s debut on tour, not to mention the sponsors as well. Think about it, how often did you watch golf without Tiger? I don’t know about you, but I can safely say never.
So when you are sitting down watching Tiger, just ask yourself one question: Why do I play golf? Not all of you, but most will say because of Tiger Woods. I will admit I only buy Nike golf balls, wear Nike golf polo’s, and wear Nike golf shoes due to his influence. I am a consumer of the Tiger brand. I would much rather see Tiger win every tournament than some one-hit wonder. So it would be a shame to see Tiger finish anything but on top. With the Open Championship a few weeks away, I believe that Tiger is due for a victory. After all, St. Andrews is nowhere near the difficulty level that Pebble Beach was this weekend (and that is an understatement).
I gave you my support Tiger, so you can stop finishing fourth and take your seat upon your throne. As the Chinese New Year best illustrates, 2010 is the Year of the Tiger.