There it is. A win for the ages. - Jim Nantz
It’s been 25 years since Tiger Woods won his first Masters tournament. Though he had won three times on the PGA Tour prior to donning the green jacket, it was this victory that propelled him onto the national stage. It wasn’t just a historic event for the game of golf. It changed the world. It was Columbus leaving the port of spain.
What followed was an entire sport completely changed. Golf ratings started to surpass the NBA on television, and purses for tournaments grew exponentially. Nike became the biggest name in the sport, and red shirts were sold out everywhere. Not a whole lot has changed about Tigers' impact since then. He still remains the biggest draw in the sport, and there is no close second place. He is still one of the five biggest names in the history of sports. His performance has changed though, and we are left with a question about an American icon. Has Tiger Woods won his last tournament?
If this is the end, it should not come as a surprise. We have been living in, and enjoying the twilight for some time. Even in the brightest of days, we saw glimpses of Woods’ mortality. He would be hit with knee problems, no doubt the result of one of golf's most violent swings. Then back problems started to creep in. He lost confidence in his swing, going through different coaches like hot potatoes. And on November 27, 2009 his personal life and public image took an irreparable hit.
Since that night, he has won on the PGA Tour 11 times in 13 years. Nowhere near the Tiger Woods we all remember, even if one of those wins was the Masters. The man we see today withdraws from tournaments in pain, after putting up astronomical scores. He shot 13 over par at Augusta this year, finishing 47th. We understand he was involved in a very serious car accident that almost cost him his leg. This is by no means a condemnation of the player. Merely an observation of the way things are.
He is now 46 years old. The oldest player to ever win a major was 48, and was perfectly healthy. The oldest player ever to win a PGA Tour event was 52. If Tiger never wins again, he would finish tied with that man (Sam Snead) for the most PGA Tour wins in a career (82). And he would finish 3 majors shy of Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18. This would amount to a tragedy, and a reminder to us all that life is cruel and unjust.
Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer in history. His talent and abilities is like nothing we have ever ever seen, and may not see again. His drive and his unflappable focus was something that intimidated and scared other professionals. His alleged peers.He is supposed to hold every record there is. That is how it is supposed to end for him. Anything short of that is a slap in the face from the golf gods.
There is still a glimmer of hope. A tiny spec of light that remains in the sky. Every time Tiger Woods plays in a tournament, it feels like he can win it. Like only a fool would bet against him. Even when he is eight or nine shots back, there’s a feeling in all of us that he could shoot a 63 and get right back in it. Nobody feels that way about any other golfer. We believe the focus in his eyes, and we KNOW, with all the fibers of our being that he will continue winning. He is the one. The only one. And I won’t believe it’s over until he has given up playing the game.