Monday, March 11, 2013

Tiger Woods is Back (Towards Chasing History)

I was talking to my cousin after church on Sunday and among other things, we talked about Tiger Woods' dominating win at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. Since he's a golf fan, I asked his thoughts on Tiger since we both aren't prey to the whole "Is Tiger Back?" talk.

Here's what he reminded me. Since the start of 2012 (19 events), Tiger has won 5 tournaments, the most of anyone over that time period. He's also finished 3rd twice. The last time Tiger won 2 events leading up to the Masters, he won the Masters.

This weekend, all I heard was how much Tiger was crushing the competition. The win at Doral might be his best performance since his world changed in 2009 and there's finally reason to believe that he'll finally win another major. 

The problem with us asking is Tiger back is that we judge it solely on the 4 major championships. That's been Tiger's goal since Day One - passing Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 majors. Quiet as kept, he's inched closer to another record that I think is just as valuable.

Sam Snead won 82 career PGA Tour tournaments. Tiger is second place with 76. The way he's been playing the last few years, that record could be broken by 2014 at least. Which begs the question. If Tiger breaks that record, is it less significant than if he doesn't break Jack's record?

Consider this. Phil Mickelson is in 9th place with 41. The only other golfer who was active with Tiger Woods and has more than 20 is Vijay Singh, who has 34. Tiger may never win another major but if he wins 80 PGA tournaments, that's a pretty remarkable accomplishment.

If he breaks Snead's record in 2014 or 15, that means it took him 19-20 years to do what Snead did in 30 years. If that's not impressive I don't know what is. Never mind that Tiger has won 103 total events in his career which is more than we could ever dream of.

My cousin pointed out that golfers would kill to win one tournament. Professional golfers who win 5-10 tournaments are still pretty good and if they finish high enough, they'll still get paid. Ernie Els has 4 majors to his name but has only won 19 PGA events.

Jack Nicklaus has been unwavering in his support of Tiger Woods. Woods has been chasing his ghost but in the process, he's inching closer to Sam Snead's ghost.
When Tiger started struggling, I figured we needed to reevaluate his career. Now that he's winning events and quietly reclaiming his mojo, there's more reason to do so. Forget passing Jack or winning another major (and I'm not counting him out at the Masters next month.) If he passes Sam Snead's record, Tiger Woods should be hailed with every accolade possible.

It's hard to win 1 of the 4 major tournaments but it's hard to win any tournament period, as my cousin reminded me. For somebody like Tiger to find ways to win after struggling in 2010 and 2011, it's all to more reason to be impressed instead of just waiting for him to prove himself 4 times a year.

By the way, he still has one more tournament before the Masters - the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in 2 weeks, an event he won last year. So while you're only looking to see if he grabs the moon, he's still catching stars and showing flashes of brilliance worth appreciating.

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