Tiger Woods was golf’s No. 1 for a record 623 weeks. He has won a total of 97 tournaments around the globe. He has won 14 majors, a feat second only to – who else – Jack Nicklaus. Surpassing Jack’s record of 18 majors will, by Tiger’s own standard, put him up there as the world’s greatest ever golfer.
But his last major win was in 2008, the US Open. A long, three years ago. His last tournament win was in 2009, the Australian Masters. Tiger Woods was No. 1 at that time. He was golf’s emperor at that time. Now, he is quite a pale shadow of that great, dominant player. Today he is not even in the Top 5. He is barely hanging on to Top 10. The last tournament he played in, The Players, he withdrew due to injuries after only nine holes. He is now struggling to keep fit so that he can join the US Open in June. The British Open is definitely out for him; the links course and the British weather will do his injuries no good.
So has the greatest golfer of our own times gone on the decline? Are we witnessing a hero fading into the sunset? Time will tell but many, many articles have been written and comments made on this subject. A growing number is moving over to the side that says “I believe Tiger is on the decline”, that “Jack’s record will remain intact”. One writer even made a comparison between Tiger and Muhammad Ali, describing how Ali remained in the ring – when he was well past his prime – for one last great hurrah only to be beaten by a young Larry Holmes.
It would be a real pity if that happens. I mean, I don’t think I can bear watching Tiger and reading about him limping all over the courses all over the places, at times missing cuts here and there, before he finally stops playing the game.
It would be a terrible loss. Even now, so many of us who play the game or are interested in it no longer watch Golf Channel on the final day, because Tiger is not contending. My family members – none are golfers, none showed any interest before in golf until Tiger came along – wouldn’t watch the game on tv, wouldn’t know who won the Players. Who is the current world’s No. 1? Their answer: Tiger Woods.
Tiger needs to win tournaments, especially the majors, to ensure he he will become golf’s greatest ever. And golf needs Tiger for a variety of reasons: to bring in sponsors’ money, to bring in spectators, to help develop the game, to generate interest among non-golfers. Not many other players have that kind of pull Tiger has. Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwoods, McDowell, Matt Kuchar et al, they are simply not appealing. Not even Phil Mickleson.
At 35, Tiger Woods still has plenty of time left. Many players won tournaments when they were past 40. Ask Vijay Singh, ask KJ Choi. Personal life troubles? With due respect, those will go away in time. He will move on; he can. But about the only thing that can prevent him from achieving his lifelong ambitions, and us seeing him many more years to come, is the injuries to his body.
Now it would be a real shame, a great one, a catastrophe, if one day we were to read or hear, “Tiger Woods wishes to announce, with great sadness, that he is retiring from professional golf beginning next season.”