Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I Don't Get Tiger Woods

I woke yesterday in time to see Tiger Woods miss a long putt on the 18th that would have put him in a playoff with eventual US Open champion Angel Cabrera. The camera cut from Tiger’s dejected expression to one happy Argentinean rejoicing in the locker room after the greatest ever actually missed.

I don’t get Tiger Woods. He’s arguably the best golfer ever, by far the richest ever, and he’s still at it—managing to feel dejected over a lost tournament here and there. I say this not in complete ignorance of the adrenaline of the competitive spirit. But the fact is that Tiger really has no competition on tour.

Vijay Singh took his shots at him over the years, so did Phil Mickelson, but no one has ever stared Tiger in the face for a prolonged period of time. Of course he’s going to lose a few tournaments here and there. It’s the law of averages. But odds-makers will always put their money on him. And he’s really likely to win the tournaments he’s in. No one will argue against that—not even Tiger himself. But still, where does all this competitive energy come from?

Jack Nicklaus had Arnold Palmer staring him down for a number of years. Pete Sampras had the likes of Andre Agassi. Tiger’s got nobody—nobody pushing him but himself. It’s kind of disturbing.

Comparisons are made to Michael Jordan. But I think Jordan had the benefit of doubters. Before his first three championships, people said he couldn’t lead a team. When he came back after the first retirement, it was the question of whether he could do it all again after laying off. Then his last return was marred by questions of age. Jordan always had something externally pushing him, which I suppose only pushes his internal drive.

Tiger’s got nothing. No one questions him. No one on tour has been his Palmer or his Agassi. It’s all internal. And not that material things are everything but he’s one rich motherfucker who doesn’t need to play at all to continue his lifestyle. He’s untouchable, yet there’s this continued obsession with winning.

That’s a scary way to live life.

I know Tiger has his fun—how can you not with all that money? But to still be consumed with winning when a tournament begins…I don’t think I wish that on anyone. To know you’re the best ever but to still have that desire to, in a sense, prove yourself (to who?) is inexplicable.

I suppose it’s chasing the record books now, which in sports is something—though chasing numbers for me seems preposterous when perception overrides it most of the time.

I don’t know. I’m a Tiger fan, and I hope he doesn’t stop anytime soon. But I can’t help but wonder if I was him, would I continue playing professionally past the age of 35? Or will I just move on to another challenge?

Throwing ideas out there: maybe I’d stop now at my peak, try something else for a decade, then return to professional competition when I’m old and I have doubters trying to pull me down. Then I’d really have something to prove. Because if I was Tiger now, I’d feel like an empty ghost.


Blogger mikosamson said...

Here are two Tiger Woods anecdotes, from one Tiger fan to another:

1. Tiger's dad wanted his kid to be the toughest guy on the course. Not necessarily the longest hitter. Maybe not the best putter. But definitely, the toughest mentally. And for most of Tiger's formative years, Earl gave Tiger hell whenever they'd practice. Earl would cheat during putting time at the greens (he'd take his balls closer to the hole than his green marks showed), or he'd distract Tiger whenever he was about to hit a shot off a tee, by making Tiger's golf bag fall while Tiger was in mid-downswing. Lots of those times, a reasonably pissed Tiger would glare at Earl. Earl simply asked him: "Are you going to make that shot or not?"

In short, Tiger's game IS largely mental.

2. One time, during practice, Tiger called Butch Harmon, who was his coach at the time.

"Butch," he said, "I've done it."


"I can hit the ball anywhere I want."

And Butch said: "Stop practicing."

If my memory serves me right, that was right before he won the US Open, then the British Open, the PGA Championship, and then the Masters, being the first golfer to hold all major titles at a single time.

A few years later, he re-tooled his swing.


3:03 AM  
Blogger M.V. said...

salamat, miko. sa anecdotes.

5:50 PM  
Blogger mikosamson said...

Hey Martin. You might have seen the new Accenture commercial. The one where Tiger forgets to factor in, of all things, the earth's rotation.


3:39 AM  

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