Listen Up! Tiger will beat Jack’s record with ease

Posted by Robert on Apr 29

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LISTEN UP NAYSAYERS, Tiger will beat Jack’s record of 18 majors with ease

If there is one thing we like better than elevating a star to cult like, superhero status – it’s watching him fall from grace (and kicking him all the way down.)  And now with this week’s announcement that Tiger will miss his next scheduled tournament, The Wells Fargo Championship next week, because of a minor injury to his left knee and Achilles’ tendon the murmurs about him not catching Jack Nicklaus’ major record have crescendoed to full-on preachification.

Preachers keep on preaching, but Tiger will beat Jack’s record of 18 with ease.  He needs 4 more to tie and that’s the same amount Phil Mickelson has won in his entire career. (But Tiger AIN’T Phil.)  And I predict that he does it by the time he’s 40 years old!  That gives him only 5 years.  Read on and I will tell you exactly why.

First, before I get to the cold hard facts, I should tell you that I’m not a Wood’s worshiper – never have been, although we do both share an unhealthy passion for golf and Perkins’ waitresses.

Tiger’s Physical Strength — The critic’s first argument is Tiger’s deteriorating health.  Tiger’s knee has been a recurring problem for him.  He had ACL surgery in 2008 and while rehabbing his knee, he tore his Achilles.  I’ll concede to you that this certainly has slowed Tiger’s progress down.  How can he maintain his edge if he can’t even practice?  However, NFL athletes come back from ACL injuries all the time, and these competitors go right back to being pummeled by 400 hundred pound meatheads for 16 straight weeks, not strolling down lush fairways with a man-servant standing at the ready to pop the umbrella when it starts to sprinkle.  Plus Tiger’s perfectionist approach towards his strength and fitness have been well documented (and cleverly duplicated.)  Which brings me to my next point…

Tiger is Still Better than the Field — The next spew the chatterbox sitting in the clubhouse will say is “These kids today are just too good.  Tiger’s competition can’t be dominated.”  Granted the 20something crew – like Ricky Fowler, Rory Mcllroy, and Dustin Johnson have taken a page right out of Tiger’s playbook (actually a whole chapter of his 1st book written in 1997 after he won the Masters, entitled "Don’t Eat What Fuzzy Zoellor Eats!")Tiger has been caught physically, and surpassed.  He no longer can do what the others couldn’t like hooking a 3-iron out of a fairway bunker 200+ yards over some tall trees into a 20 mph wind (Hazeltine 2002.)  Technology and those spry youngsters have evened the playing field.

However, they still lack in one MAJOR category – that’s mental toughness.  They put down Tiger’s book before they got to the chapter about being trained (starting at the age of two) by a United States Army Special Forces Officer.  (I’m speaking of Earl Woods, Tiger’s Father, mentor, and best friend.) These kids just don’t have it yet.  Need I remind you of Rory’s complete mental meltdown on Sunday this year at the 2011 Masters (where he shot 80 after he lead the tourney for three days) or Dustin’s zombie-like waltz on Sunday last year at the 2010 US Open where after starting the day with a three stroke lead, he shot 82?

Furthermore, Tiger has heard this argument since he started on tour.  Even back in the golden ages of golf, back in the late 90s and early 2000s (my how I love to reminisce about the long forgotten days of steal shafts and balata golf balls) folks argued the fields were too strong and that one person couldn’t dominate like Jack did.Not only has Tiger had to face an extremely talented field each week he had to take on the likes of what I refer to as “The Hot Hand” – the one (or two players) that caught fire that particular week and were playing like they were possessed by Ben Hogan.  Guys like Zach Johnson at the 2007 Masters (Tiger lost), Y.E. Yang at the 2009 PGA Championship (Tiger lost), or Rocco Mediate at the 2008 US Open (Tiger barely won hobbling on one leg).

Yes, Tiger has taken it on the chin in his personal life, but that doesn’t weaken him mentally – If anything it makes him stronger.  He prides himself on eating pain like popcorn. Yes he’s shown some weakness lately.  The putts aren’t falling as regularly as we expect them too.That being said, he’s still flashing his brilliance and mental toughness.  At Augusta this year, after seemingly shooting himself out of the tournament on Saturday (shooting 74), he went on a Tiger run Sunday shooting 31 on the front nine and finishing tied for fourth (shooting 67).

Earlier this year in March at the World Golf Championships – at Doral, facing the toughest field in golf he finished 10th.  He did this while still struggling with a well publicized (and criticized) swing change.  If you watched him play that week you’d swear you were viewing videos of your Uncle Earl hacking it up at the pitch and putt during the Busch Light All You Can Drink Bonanza.  And still he shot 66 on Sunday.

Look in his Eyes (If you dare.) — Let me ask you something:  If you were sitting at a poker table back in the old west with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson (everybody with a gun in their holster) and the “stuff” was just about to go down because one just accused the other of cheating.  Which side do you want to be on?I imagine Tiger would slowly rock forward in his chair, take the tooth pick out of his mouth, look Phil squarely in the eye and quietly say, “Skin that smoke wagon and see what happens.” (Tombstone 1993.)

The eye of the Tiger is still shining.  Did you look last Sunday at the Masters?  All the great ones have it. It’s unmistakable because it’s so rare.  You’ve seen it in Michael Jordan’s eyes, in Kelly Slater’s eyes, and Lance Armstrong’s eyes.  Dial up (or Google) the Sunday round of the 1986 Masters and you will see it blazing in the eyes of a 46 year old man that one sports writer preached “was done, washed up, though.”  That was Jack Nicklaus and he won his 18th major that day.

Tiger will catch Jack easily, even if he has to build a splint for his knee out of hacked down Magnolia trees.  And by the time Tiger is 46 and approaching 30 majors, the naysayers will all be cheering the loudest, elevating him once again to his rightful place amongst mythical Gods like Zeus and Ronald Regan.

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