It’s been 8 years since Tiger Woods has won a major. I was finishing up my final days of elementary school in the 6th grade. On the 72nd hole of the Open, Tiger made a sweeping birdie putt to force an 18-hole Monday playoff against Rocco Mediate. That Monday, I went home “sick” from school so I could see Tiger make history and win his 14th major, just 4 away from Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 majors. The thing is, Tiger didn’t just win the U.S. Open, he won it with a torn ACL and a broken leg. Tiger was still better than the field on one good leg.
Even though Tiger would go on to miss the next 9 months after reconstructive knee surgery, it was still inevitable that he would break Jack’s record. Then, 2009 happened. Tiger Woods used to be money when he was grouped in the final pairing of a major. At the PGA Championship, golf’s fourth major, Tiger was paired alongside YE Yang. Yang pulled off the upset of the century by defeating Woods. No one had ever seen Tiger this exposed. Tiger was in fact, mortal.
Two month later, the whole sex scandal would come full circle. Tiger would take another break from golf to straighten out his life. I don’t want to dig too deep into the whole scandal because the media has blown it up enough and it is not the main reason for his entire demise. (He would return from his lay off to place T4 in the 2010 Masters, not bad).
The main reason for Tiger Woods’ demise can be blamed 100% on injuries. Tiger has always practiced and trained harder than anyone else on the planet. I am not going to speculate about whether these injuries were sustained due to his obsession with the military, but the writing is on the wall. And no, Tiger Woods’ body is not breaking down because he took steroids. Golf is all about flexibility; steroids do not make your body more flexible. When Tiger first came on tour, he was outdriving his opponents by 30 yards off the tee. When his competitors would have a 5 or 6 iron into a green, Tiger would have an 8 or 9 iron. With a shorter club, Tiger could really go after the flag.
Tiger had such a huge advantage off the tee that courses such as Augusta National had to make their courses “Tiger proof.” Basically, courses on the PGA Tour calendar added length in order to take away the advantage that long hitters, such as Woods, had on the rest of the field.
Tiger changed the way golfers view practice and fitness. When he first came on tour, Tiger was one of the only guys to spend a significant amount of time in the weight room. He coupled this with hours of intense and precise practice. He did not just come from nothing to become the greatest golfer of his generation. He worked for everything he achieved. Today’s generation of golfers have finally caught up to Woods’ fitness and practice standards.
I’m not saying Tiger Woods is overrated just because he hit the ball so much farther than anyone else on tour (with all due respect to John Daly). Tiger was better than every other golfer on the planet because he had mental toughness. The hardest part of golf is not actually about hitting the golf ball. The toughest aspect of golf is the mental side of the game. Tiger never let bad things in his round get to him. He was not bothered by distractions made by the patrons (he would make it seem like it though) and he never (in his prime) gave up on a round. Tiger knew he was better than you, and you knew Tiger was better than you. It’s as simple as that.
Since his defeat in the 2009 PGA Championship, I always thought Tiger would rebound and win at least one more major. I now sit here and hope he wins at least one more tournament in general. It’s amazing how expectations can pass with time.
The sport of golf has moved on from Tiger. When Tiger debuted on tour in 1996, golf was struggling for ratings. It needed a generational player to bring golf into the 21st century, and that’s what Tiger Woods did. Now, we sit here in 2016, and golf could not be in better hands, and it’s no longer in Tiger’s hands. Golf is now ruled by the likes of Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, and Rory McIlroy. This “big 3” is the future of the game. They will rule the game like the “big 3’s” before them. For the older fans: Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Gary Player, and from my childhood: Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh, and of course, Tiger Woods.
I will admit, I was not always a fan of the younger generation of golfers. In 2011, I watched Rory McIlroy have his epic meltdown on the back 9 of The Masters and I loved every second of it. Why did I love it? Because Tiger Woods shot himself into contention with a 5-under par 31 on the front nine. He had a share of the lead after an eagle on the 8th hole. Golf can survive without Tiger Woods, but it’s so much more exciting with him in contention.
This post was originally supposed to be a boring article about how Tiger Woods tweeted about how he is going to miss the U.S. Open in 2 weeks. But to me, this tweet is much bigger than just missing a tournament:
That’s why, as hard as this is for me, I am officially writing off Tiger Woods. He will never come back to win another tournament on Tour. This is very hard for me to say but it has to be said. We cannot be delusional and think the 40-year-old Woods can come back from another serious back injury to compete with these young guns on tour. Today’s field is just way to good for a 40-year-old trying to balance golf, health, and father time.
I may be writing Tiger off, but I can never bring myself to root against him. I will always be a fan of Tiger, and I hope I can at least, someday, see him win one more time in any capacity.
Prove the haters wrong Tiger. With that, I’ll leave you with some of Tiger’s greatest highlights.