The Looper

Give up. It’s no longer subject to debate. The prophecy is coming true. Tiger Woods is the Chosen One. If no one else has claimed him, I am doing it right now. Tiger Woods is Neo, he is Luke Skywalker, he is Harry Potter. If he doesn’t do the impossible, no one will. When it comes to statistics, Mr. Woods’ sole focus is the ‘W.’ He is not concerned with the money list (which he leads), or scoring average (the lowest, at a disgusting 68.73 strokes per round) or greens in regulation (which he leads), or birdies and eagles (which he also averages more of than any other golfer out there), and certainly not driving distance (7th place at, oh, 300-plus yards a whack). The guy just goes out there and wins…a lot. Eight times this year to be exact, including his last six in a row. That’s six in a row for the second time in his career. Reeeeewind. The guy is 30 years-old. Golf wise, Tiger has done more with his first 30 years than anyone before him, more than golf gods like Nicklaus, Palmer, Hogan, Snead, or Jones. In 30 years he has gone from child prodigy to pro-extraordinaire. Since leaving Stanford as a skinny 21 year-old and joining the PGA Tour in August 1996 he has won 54 times. He has earned roughly $76 million from those first-place checks and hundreds of millions more from endorsement deals. And as far as “W’s” go, he isn’t gunning for the John Deere Classics and B.C. Opens of the PGA Tour. Tiger’s sole focus is on winning major championships. The record for those is 18, set by Jack Nicklaus at age 46. Tiger has 12; two-thirds, in half of the time. But oddly enough, the talk this year isn’t about his performance in the majors; he won two and finished third in another. He even missed the cut at the U.S. Open, on a hellacious Winged Foot course, which is in and of itself a huge story. The talk this year is about his current win streak. After his win in the American Express Championship on Oct. 1, Woods is once again halfway to breaking the late Byron Nelson’s streak of 11 straight PGA Tour victories. A perfectionist, the likes of which Bailey/Howe residents hold seething envy for, his general disposition towards his performance is nonchalant and dismissive. There is always something that he didn’t do well. Just so you understand, here is an all-too-realistic hypothetical: Reporter: “Tiger you won by 15 strokes this week. You looked perfect. How do you think you performed out there?” Tiger: “Yeah, I was playing pretty well. I mean, I won, but that missed birdie on 12 was just a poor stroke and I really should have hit the fairway on 15. “And on 17 I took too much off the 4-iron approach shot and didn’t make it all the way to the second tier – I just got lucky when I dropped the 40-footer for eagle.” The assembled crowd of reporters groans sarcastically. But seriously, no one else consistently performs at his level. During those periods where he comes back down to earth, he appears merely normal, mortal, and I daresay beatable. A two-win year for Tiger is perceived by the media as a down year. For any other player in the world, that’s a successful year, if not a banner year. When we say he’s “slumping” he actually is, in a way. It’s a slump for him and him alone. We could call it a “Tiger slump.” Ultimately, the more six-, seven-, eight- and nine-win years Tiger churns out, the more those two-win years look like also-rans. No one else in the history of golf has experienced success at the rate he has, save maybe Nelson who won 18 tournaments in 1945. That’s no typo. That record is up there with DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak and Cy Young’s 511 major league baseball victories as ones that will never be broken. I could say quite confidently that Tiger won’t win 18 tournaments in a season, mainly because he only enters about 18 or 19 PGA tournaments each year. I could also say that he won’t win his next six PGA tournaments, making it a tidy 12 in-a-row, and consequently breaking Nelson’s record of 11 consecutive PGA Tour victories. But let’s be honest, who’s to put it past the Chosen One?