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If I were a betting man . . .

April 7, 2010

Tiger Week at the Masters– A sportsman’s perspective

This Tiger imbroglio is a multi-faceted mess well worth some detailed discussion on many of its varied issues. Today though with the comeback kid teeing off tomorrow afternoon, I’m just going to bloviate a bit about the direct effect this “scandal” could have on the sport itself.

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What’s all the fuss? Let’s see some golf already.

Actually this is an important week for the avid golf fan. Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer in the world. That is undisputed fact. But if he never wins another tournament he can’t lay claim to the title of Greatest Golfer Ever. And that would be a shame because for the past decade it’s been clearly evident that particular superlative was destined to be his. All he had to do was stay healthy, keep playing his usual spectacular game, and the crown, he would deservedly own.

Tiger is that talented a golfer.

Jack Nicklaus is the current benchmark technically. Jack had an unprecedented sustained run of excellence from around 1960 to 1980. He had eclipsed all the important records and everyone acknowledged “The Golden Bear” as the Greatest Golfer Ever as he came to the end of that stretch. Then just for fun I guess, in 1986 he won his sixth Masters, this time at the age of 46. That was an impressive capper to a remarkable career.

Some of Nicklaus’ endurance statistics are incredible and may be untouchable even for Mr Woods (in a five year span in the 70s Jack played in 101 events finishing in the top five, 64 times) but the number of Major titles is the predominant yardstick for assessing the GGE and while Jack has the most now with 18, Tiger is winning the major championships at a younger age and faster rate the Bear ever did. The dominoes are falling. The express train is bearing down. Do you hear that Mr. Nicklaus? That’s the sound of inevitability, that’s the sound of your . . .

Well a funny thing happened on the way to the inevitable. A fire hydrant attacked a SUV on Thanksgiving Day. And the subsequent revelation of much extramarital sex helped pull together a Big Top circus of prurient attractions including a seemingly endless parade of buxom females spilling from the stretch clown car; and featuring in the center ring, a proud, prowling Tiger who suddenly bolts the tent for 45 days before returning to apologetically whip himself into submission, and mewl about what a bad kitty he’s been.

Athletes compartmentalize in order to stay in the moment, to perform well despite distractions. Tiger was performing well on the golf course these past years despite juggling multiple paramours and deceiving his family. He’s a well-practiced, disciplined athlete who has seemingly been allowed to dump a lot of psychological baggage and simplify his existence. It may very well permit him to concentrate better and excel.

Or it’s possible the pressure to assume a more modest, maybe unnatural profile and to modify his style, may jam up or completely derail his competitive edge and then who knows how the rest of his career turns out. He needs to win four more majors to tie Nicklaus. This should be no problem if he can focus on the crown, which would be easier if the circus would just leave town.

If this little foofaraw has effectively neutered the pure Predator Golfer, and the records are not smashed forthwith and with great enthusiasm, LOM will be severely displeased. It will be such a tragic waste of a very rare historical opportunity in golf. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the revolution up til now, but I have been counting on witnessing the throne toppled and the new monarch installed. Le Roi est mort. Vive le Roi! and all that.

The Golden Bear is dead! Long live The Big Cat!

PS — Tiger is 6/1 at Ladbroke’s.  That may be the longest price you get on him ever again.

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