Tiger Woods: The Greatest Individual Athlete Ever

You should probably sit down for this one. That's because I'm about to offend anybody and everybody who thinks golfers rank below rhythmic gymnasts, bowlers and tractor-pull drivers on the sports food chain.

Tiger Woods is the greatest individual athlete of our time. OK, of all time.

There, I said it and it feels right, especially after Woods just left Medinah Country Club with what seems like his millionth major championship. Once again, he left divot marks on the rest of the field and bruise marks on the record books.

Nobody kisses more silver than this guy. On Sunday, Woods was busy romancing the Wanamaker Trophy, which is what you get after winning the PGA Championship. It was his third makeout session with the trophy, having won the thing in 1999, 2000 and now 2006. If it happens again, they'll have to get a hotel room.

But this isn't about golf anymore. Woods doesn't have anybody within a par-5 of him on tour. I thought Phil Mickelson was good enough to challenge Woods, but he isn't. Not now. Maybe not ever.

Woods has escaped golf's gravitational pull and moved into a planetary system that includes your one-namers (Pele, Babe, Jack), your initialers (MJ), your nicknamers (The Great One, The Greatest), your oldies (Jim Thorpe, Willie Mays, Joe Louis), your Olympians (Mark Spitz, Carl Lewis), your netters (Martina Navratilova, Pete Sampras), your others (Lance Armstrong). I know I'm forgetting someone, but it doesn't matter. Woods is better.

There comes a time when golf greatness morphs into something beyond recognition, something so singular that you have difficulty explaining it. It defies comparison, context and reason.

Can you explain Woods? I can't. I'm not even sure Woods fully understands the ripple effect of his achievements. All I know is that there has never been anyone like him. You tell your children about him, and maybe, if they stick around long enough, they tell theirs.

This was Woods' 12th majors victory. He moved past Walter Hagen, who was no slouch, and to within six car lengths of Jack Nicklaus and the Golden Bear-mobile. Woods could pass Nicklaus and those 18 championships within two years. Crazy? You tell him.

"When you first come out on Tour you just hope to win one," said Woods.

Hope isn't part of the equation these days. Woods doesn't need it. Maybe when he turned pro in 1996, but not now.

Nicklaus is the lone remaining mortal challenge left for Woods -- and Nicklaus doesn't even play on tour anymore. At age 30, Woods is already chasing and catching legends. Hagen on Sunday ... Nicklaus in 2008, 2009, or 2010. His career is now about numbers and legacies.

The truth is he has neutered, for lack of a better word, his peers. They aren't the challenge; history is. Woods has won four of the last eight majors. He owns the lowest 72-hole scores in relation to par in the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open, and is tied for the PGA record. He's missed the cut exactly four times in his career. Jeez, how many times can you rub your eyes in disbelief.

"I mean, we all smirk and laugh when he says he's got his 'B' game, but that's better than most of our 'A' games," said Shaun Micheel, who won the 2003 PGA. "He's just that good."

Micheel finished second Sunday. He shot 13-under for the tournament, which would have won the last four PGAs. Woods still beat him by five strokes.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...