2/26/19

Tiger’s Legacy

The Big Cat's mark on the game.

by

This was supposed to be an uplifting piece about Tiger Woods and his comeback to the PGA Tour, but as I was in the final stages of editing, he announced that he wouldn’t be making his return to golf this week because “my game is vulnerable and not where it needs to be.”

Woods’ WD wasn’t a dupe, it was a message from a man who is searching for the game he once had. Since Woods’ world came crashing down amidst his sex scandal in the winter of 2010, he has been searching to refind his dominant self. There have been flashes; the 2013 season saw him win 5 times but he still wasn’t at that Tiger level we grew accustomed to in the early 2000’s.

The night Tiger’s personal struggles came into the public light, Tiger learned he wasn’t invincible. And since that night, Tiger has lost the mental edge he held over every other professional golfer.

Fast forward to yesterday and Tiger himself admitted that his golf game was vulnerable. Tiger’s struggles aren’t mechanical, they are with driver yips and chipping yips, signs of mental instability. At this point, I am unsure of whether or not Tiger will ever return to golf, but I am certain that his limitations on the golf course stem from being mentally weak rather than physically; limitations that aren’t fixed by banging range balls for another couple of months.

Whether or not Tiger ever returns to competitive golf, I will remember him as the greatest golfer that I have ever seen. I never had the opportunity to watch Jack Nicklaus in his prime, so to me, Tiger is the greatest ever.

Records and achievements are often the way we remember the legends of sports. When you think of Joe DiMaggio, you think of his 56-game hit streak. For Wilt Chamberlain, it’s his 100 point game, but for Tiger Woods, it’s not about a record but rather which record stands out.

142 made cuts in a row

This might be the most impressive record in all of sports. Byron Nelson had held the consecutive made cuts record since 1948, playing in an era of golf where the depth of competition was much less and registering 118 consecutive cuts made. The record was thought by most to be untouchable; in the same class as DiMaggio’s hit streak, until Tiger came along and smashed it making 142 straight cuts. Tiger’s streak started in February of 1998 at the Buick Open and spanned for 7 years until Woods finally missed a cut in May of 2005 at the Byron Nelson Championship.

To put this record into perspective, the current consecutive cuts made streak is held by Adam Scott at 20 tournaments, about a full season of tournaments for a top-flight player on the PGA Tour…only 122 to go Adam!!

The Tiger Slam

No professional golfer has ever accomplished the feat of the grand slam by winning every major championship in a calendar year, but Tiger Woods sure came close. After winning the 2001 Masters, Tiger earned the unique distinction of becoming the first player to hold all 4 professional major championships (The Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship) at the same time. This feat became known as “The Tiger Slam,” and given golf’s growing parity, I don’t foresee anyone doing this again.

25.3% career win percentage

When you look at odds to win a particular professional golf tournament, the favorite is usually in the ballpark of 8 to 1 to win. The favorite can be a good bet, but usually bettors focus their attention much further down the list to find good values. In Tiger’s professional career, he has won 1 in every 4 times he has tee’d it up; a number that has been greatly affected by his recent struggles.

3 consecutive U.S. Junior Championships followed by 3 consecutive U.S. Amateur Championships

It’s insanely hard to win one U.S. Junior or one U.S. Amateur. The format for each is 36-holes of stroke play followed by the top 64 of a 300 player field moving to a single elimination match play bracket. I would liken the upset potential at the U.S. Junior or Amateur to the NCAA basketball tournament on steroids. Typically, the margin of difference from the 1-seed to 64-seed is miniscule and on any given day picking a winner is a toss up.

This wasn’t the case for Tiger, who went through the 64-player match play field of the U.S. Junior and Amateur an astounding 6 consecutive times without losing! He went 36-0 in match play against some of the best amateur golfers in the world!

Only golfer to have won all 4 majors by at least 5 shots

Pure dominance. It is one thing to win a golf tournament and it’s another thing to run away with golf tournaments, let alone major championships which are setup to test every aspect of a player’s game and expose the weak ones. Tiger showed that he was the best golfer on the planet at every type of setup. Whether it was the risk/reward nature of Augusta, the extremely difficult golf played at a U.S. Open or the unique challenges and shots required to hit on the links courses at the Open Championship, Tiger won big everywhere. Only five men have won the career grand slam. Tiger has won each major championship by 5 shots or more.

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