Tiger Woods: The Greatest Individual Athlete Ever

ByABC News
August 21, 2006, 4:50 AM

MEDINAH, Ill., Aug. 21, 2006 — -- 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.