This week’s Masters has been labeled as the most important tournament in Tiger Woods’ illustrious career. The logic is if Tiger is to surpass Jack Nicklaus’ record of winning 18 majors then he needs to snap his 5-year drought in golf’s biggest showcases – and do it now. Clearly he’s playing his best golf since winning the ’08 U.S. Open, seemingly recovered from a series of injuries, personal missteps and a swing overhaul.
I don’t buy such logic.
Obviously all majors are important, but Tiger has plenty of time to win five more majors. He’s only 37 and it’s reasonable to think he can continue to play at or near his current level until he’s at least 45. That’s 36 more major opportunities.
I do understand how it will be a disappointment if Tiger doesn’t win this week. Augusta National is the perfect playground for his game as his four green jackets illustrate. And he’s back to being No. 1 in the world with three victories this year and six in the last 13 months.
But as great as Tiger is there’s plenty of competition. In fact, I’ll argue there are more golfers capable of winning the Masters than there’s ever been. Don’t scoff. We love to relive the good old days. We get starry-eyed talking about the 1960s with Jack Nicklaus Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Billy Casper; about the ‘70s with Nicklaus, Player, Lee Trevino, Raymond Floyd, Johnny Miller and Tom Watson; about the ’80 with Nicklaus, Watson, Floyd, Trevino, Greg Norman, Seve Ballestero, Jose Marie Olazabal and Nick Faldo. (No doubt I’ve left out a few very capable golfers.)
I’ve covered professional golf and the major championships since the 1960s (which is why I didn’t offer an opinion about previous decades) and I’m convinced the world wide field of talented players is deeper now than it’s ever been.
While Tiger deserves a spot at the top by himself, his competition may start with Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson, but the list of potential champions is long and includes some golfers whose names we don’t even know. No doubt novice golf fans would give you a blank stare if you tossed out such names as Keegan Bradley, Dustin Johnson, Charl Schwartzel and Louie Oosthuizen among many others.
Anyone have Bubba Watson winning the green jacket last year?
The biggest mistake Tiger can make is listening to the pundits and putting added pressure on himself. I think Tiger gets to 19 majors, maybe 20 or more, regardless of how he plays this week.
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