I’ve always had the belief that Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer to have ever played the game.
There was never any doubt then, and I still don’t have doubts now.
Recent history, however, has proven to be far less kind to Tiger’s resume to justify my belief in him as the G.O.A.T. in golf. For somebody who used to lay waste to the competition, that image of a man in red on Sundays seem to be long gone by now. It’s been almost five years since he won his last major and eight years since his last Masters triumph.
So as the skeptics grow and the belief in him surpassing Jack Nicklaus’ 18 majors wanes, it’s perfectly understandable for people to jump off the Tiger bandwagon for good.
Not me, though. I’m riding this wagon until the wheels come off.
I’ll admit this much: it’s getting lonelier and lonelier on this ride. The number of those who believe that Tiger can still climb past Nicklaus’ 18 majors is dwindling with every passing major that he fails to win. One that now includes the 2013 Masters, a tournament that had the makings of Tiger’s return to dominance.
He was instilled as a heavy favorite to finally break through (again) and win his first golf major in five years. His recent return to world number 1 certainly cemented that belief. People were saying that Tiger had that old scowl back; that look on his face that seemed to tell the competition that second place was all they could hope for. It was beautiful to see. It was like seeing Picasso finally getting his stroke back.
But as has been the case in the past few years, Tiger failed to deliver. He had some chances and there were glimpses of that old dominant Tiger that was always in contention no matter how many shots he was off of the leader. But golf being golf, he caught a few breaks and he missed on a few ones, no bigger than the 15th hole in the second round when his approach shot was so good, it actually ricocheted off of the flagstick and went backwards straight into a pond. That shot set into motion all kinds of controversy that ultimately cost him two strokes and ridiculous clamoring to disqualify himself from the tournament.
All that being said, it wasn’t all that surprising to hear Tiger’s thoughts on the tournament. “I certainly had a chance,” he said. “If I would have posted a number today, I was right there.”
Yes, he was ‘right there’. But ‘if’s’ and ‘right there’ don’t count in how we measure his greatness. It’s always been measured by the number of green jackets and claret jugs he raises above his head. At least that’s how I’ve come to see it after seeing him win one major after another without even breaking swing.
But even with this majors drought that will hit five years in a few months, I’m still holding out hope that Tiger Woods will win at least 19 majors when his career is over. He’s still got a lot of golf left. He’s got three more chances this year, two of which will be played in courses that suit his new style of golf more than Augusta.
I’ll be the first to raise my hand and say that I sound like somebody grasping for straws. It’s hard to defend somebody who hasn’t delivered the kind of results you expect of him. But that’s the nature of the sport. You can be riding a hot streak one minute and then immediately fall off the rails the next.
Tiger Woods is closing in on an unprecedented majors drought by his standards. But I’m not losing faith. When doubt creeps in, all we can cling to is faith.
I have faith that he can ride another hot streak at this stage in his career. I have faith that he can still win more majors than Jack Nicklaus.
But most importantly, I have faith that the next time his approach shot hits the flag, the ball dies and falls into the hole.