Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Born in the USA: Tiger Woods: simply the best

<t every generation can say that they saw the greatest of all time. Our generation has not seen the greatest baseball or football players of all time and has only seen the twilight of the greatest hockey and basketball player’s careers. However, we are privileged enough to be able to watch the greatest golfer who has ever lived. As the PGA Tour season comes to a close this weekend and Tiger Woods wraps up another impressive season, we should take a step back and appreciate the greatness of Tiger. Not only should we be cognizant of Tiger’s dominance on the course, but also how, with his work ethic, his perseverance and his commitment to the community, he embodies what we strive to be.

Since Tiger Woods’ youth, the expectations have been enormous. As a two-year-old, Tiger putted against Bob Hope on national TV, and as a three-year-old he shot a 48 for nine holes. From there, the expectations only rose. While countless athletes have faltered under that immense type of pressure and are now in a “where are they now” category, Tiger thrived on it. He is the only golfer to have won three consecutive U.S. Amateur titles, after which his legend grew.

As a 21-year old, Woods shattered the Masters scoring title, and prompted the New York Times to run a front-page story claiming, “Over four days here, Woods not only played a game with which even Nicklaus was not familiar, but he also played one that elevated the sport to a new sociological plateau.” The same article raised the stakes, saying it was not a question of whether he “could win more than 10 Masters, but should win more than 10 Masters.” To put this in perspective, Jack Nicklaus still holds the record for most major championships, which comprises the Masters and three additional tournaments, with 18.

For any athlete to be able to live up to and surpass these tremendous expectations, he or she must have unimaginable mental fortitude and competitive drive. These are the intangible qualities that set Tiger Woods apart. As a child, his father, Earl, dropped his bag of clubs in the middle of his swing to try to distract him. Tiger had the ability to stop his swing midway through, back off the shot and start his routine again. On the course, Tiger has tunnel vision and a presence that every player in the field can feel. To take this a step further, Tiger Woods is the ultimate closer, going 14-1 during his career when entering the final round of a major with at least a share of the lead.

It is a reflection of the insane standards that we set for Woods that some sports writers are asking if Tiger’s season was a failure. This is being asked as he won six tournaments, is ranked number one in the world and will win player of the year honors. To put Tiger’s dominance in perspective, Jack Nicklaus, who some still consider to be the greatest golfer of all time, had a career winning percentage of 14.43%. Tiger Woods more than doubled that rate of success, with a winning percentage right now of 29.8%. Every week Woods competes against more than one hundred of the best players in the world, all of whom are capable of putting together their four best career rounds and beating every other golfer. Furthermore, the courses played vary tremendously from week to week and some players only have games suited for a specific type of course. However, Tiger Woods’ winning percentage shows that if he is having an off week and playing a course that doesn’t suit his game, he is still the favorite over anybody who is playing his preferred course.

While some athletes are dominant on the playing field, we are often hesitant to set them up as role models. After the cases of Michael Vick, Plaxico Burress, Donte Stallworth, Roger Clemens and Patrick Kane to name a few, we don’t know if we will wake up tomorrow and discover that our favorite player has been arrested or tested positive for steroids.

During Tiger Woods’ off days, instead of going to bars and clubs, he spends time working with his foundation and he practices. As a testament to this, when Tiger Woods finished the most dominant season in golf’s history in 2000, including a previously unimaginable 15-stroke victory in the hardest tournament, the U.S. Open, as well as only three finishes outside the top five, he immediately found a flaw in his swing and took it all apart and rebuilt it, with the mantra that if you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.

How many athletes can we list who sign a huge contract and have the worst years of their careers following it? Complacency comes to mind when thinking of a lot of athletes. I would bet that complacency has never been mentioned in the same sentence as Tiger Woods.

Tiger Woods showed this year that his season-ending knee injury last year would not have the after-effects that some predicted. He is back to his otherworldly self and should be gearing up for a monster season next year, when two of the four majors are being played on courses he dominates, Pebble Beach and St. Andrews. As he looks to go on another tear in the following years, I would encourage everybody to watch him and appreciate his greatness, because there never has been and never will be anybody like him.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *