News Flash: Tiger Woods Still #1

Josh Cohen

A mere 10 weeks ago we were witness to the unthinkable. After the death of his father and mentor Earl Woods, Tiger Woods appeared lost as he failed to make the cut at the United States Open at the Winged Foot Golf Club, the first time that he has missed the cut at a major tournament as a pro. Zero victories in the last ten majors and the rise of fan favorite Phil Mickelson to the height of his game started the speculation from the media. Was it possible that the Tiger Woods Era was over?

But with a birdie on the fourth playoff hole of this week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Tiger Woods put the exclamation point on a two-month run back to the top. Four victories in four tournaments (including both majors, the British Open and the PGA Championships) have brought back memories of 2000 and 2001. During this time, Woods was not only on the top of his game but the outright favorite to post the lowest score every time he stepped onto the first tee.

Tiger’s most recent tournaments have shown his growth and evolution as a player. Just the fact that Tiger was playing at all was staggering, considering his close relationship with his father and the toll it obviously took on him. Astonishingly, not only did he compete in these tournaments, he won all of them. Fighting torrential rains during the four-hole playoff at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Woods didn’t play his best golf, but made the putts that mattered. He battled, never became flustered, and in the end was holding the trophy instead of his formidable opponent Stewart Cink.

But why is this surprising? Hasn’t Tiger always faced criticism from the media? Hasn’t he dealt with racism, even from other players within the PGA Tour? Has any athlete in the world felt more pressure or been held to the same standards week in and week out as Tiger Woods?

Since becoming a professional ten years ago, Tiger has been not only the most dominant player in golf but also the most dominant player in all of sports. He has cemented his place as one of the greatest athletes of all time, yet when he endures a bad stretch, we suddenly doubt his pure dominance of golf. At 30 years old, Tiger is the youngest golfer ever to reach 50 victories and 10 majors. In 212 career starts he has won nearly 25% of the time, amassing 52 victories. Counting the two major championships this year, Tiger stands only 6 behind Jack Nicklaus’s all-time mark of 18 career majors.

The question seems to be not whether Tiger will pass Jack but where will he stop. 20 majors? 30? 40? Is there even a limit for his potential? I, for one, will no longer doubt the will of Tiger Woods. He has every shot in the bag, every intangible and at this pace every record seems within his grasp. If asked whether I will take Tiger or the field when the Masters rolls around in April, I know where I stand.