Tiger Woods: best of our time

first_imgWell, Tiger is human after all.Tiger Woods is having the worst year of his career. He has won two major tournaments and eight PGA events, including six consecutive, but for him, no year has ever been this bad. How can this be true? While he might have won just about every tournament known to man, he lost his father midway through the season.We can all sympathize with that, for sure. But now a very serious question has to be asked: Are we witnessing the greatest athlete of our generation in Tiger Woods?It’s so easy to think Tiger is more of a machine than a man as he is so consistent, relentless and efficient in what can be, to everyone else, the most aggravating game on the planet. Seeing him break down at the British Open and speak from the heart again reminds us that he is indeed one of us.If we’re debating about sheer dominance alone, the answer would have to be a resounding “Yes!” without question.Tiger is the No. 1 golfer in the world, far and away. The distance between him and whoever you want to call second-best is about the equivalent to the disparity between getting seats at the 50-yard-line at Lambeau versus having to watch an entire Indiana football game — Chinese water torture has nothing on the Hoosiers. Over the course of his career, Tiger has won more than 25 percent of the events he has entered. This year alone, he has won more than half. With 11 major championships already under his belt, it looks as if only nothing short of a midlife crisis causing Tiger to run off to Tibet to become a monk will stop him from breaking Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships.The only athlete belonging in the conversation with Tiger these days is tennis star Roger Federer, who is doing amazing things in the tennis world; he’s unstoppable on any surface short of thick clay from ceramics class. However, the sport of tennis lends itself to having personalities dominate. In just the last decade, we have seen Agassi, Sampras and Federer have strangleholds over the sport for some time. Federer isn’t the first to do what he is doing, and he won’t be the last.Tiger is setting a new standard for excellence in golf, and it’s hard to imagine any offspring between him and Annika Sorenstam matching what he is doing in the game today.However, just dominating a sport does not make you the greatest athlete. It takes a reach that surpasses the boundaries of sports. It means being so great that you redefine what “great” is. To be the Muhammad Ali or the Babe Ruth of the new millennium means to transcend sport.Tiger has caused the sport of golf to grow to a level of popularity that was unimaginable at one time. Before Tiger, golf was getting along just fine. It had its very concise and loyal fan base, but for the most part it was flying under the radar.Once Tiger hit the scene and started playing like not even Jack Nicklaus ever did, it suddenly was the cool sport to play.Golf? Cool? You mean that sport for old guys who wear funny clothes?That is the impact Tiger had.For evidence of how much golf has grown, look no further than the prize money at tournaments. At the 1996 Masters, Nick Faldo picked up an oversized check for $450,000 for winning a Green Jacket. The following year Tiger won his first major, getting about the same, $486,000. When Tiger won it again in 2005, the purse was $1.26 million. That’s just about a 300 percent growth for those of you without a calculator or a math class since high school.Tiger single-handedly made golf the fastest-growing sport in the country in the late ’90s and made it relevant again. The biggest story line in golf since he started playing: Who will challenge Tiger?But where Tiger has been most significant is on the cultural level.Tiger is black and is dominating a predominantly and traditionally white game.You can’t say it any more clearly than that. He is and should be a sign to anyone who still harbors prejudiced thoughts that maybe it’s time to do some belief re-evaluating.Michael Jordan was great, no doubt — undeniably the best basketball player ever. But he excelled in a sport where many of the best players are also in the racial minority.Not so with Tiger. Whether he wants to be or not, he is a symbol against racism, the biggest reason being that he makes people forget about race at all. He’s that good.I know that one day, I’ll be telling my kids about the great Tiger Woods, and that I’ll be watching every tournament he plays because greatness is fleeting. Too soon, you’ll be wishing you could see that fist pump one last time.Don’t miss out on the greatness that is Tiger.Dave is a senior majoring in Tiger Woods. You can contact him at [email protected]last_img

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