HOWARD WARD: Tiger Woods Is the Greatest, Pure and Simple
He doesn't need my endorsement -- again -- but he gets it anyway. Tiger Woods is the best golfer ever to play the game.
I've been saying that for the past 10 years, but I would always qualify it by pointing out that I wasn't saying he was the greatest -- just the best.
Well, guys and gals, I'm not qualifying anything anymore. Tiger has the market cornered. Nobody has ever played the game the way Tiger plays it.
The man who couldn't possibly be called Eldrick, Tiger has not only changed the face of the game, he's changed the game. People don't even think of golf the way they did pre-Tiger.
The skinny on golf used to be that it was a rental game. Players took turns being hot. The elite of the game rotated winning majors and dominating the rankings. One week one guy was hot, the next week someone else was swinging the irons while they were hot.
Then along came Tiger and everything changed. The Chinese have the Year of the Tiger. The PGA Tour has had its Decade of the Tiger.
There are still some who complain that the television cameras spend too much time on Tiger. Heck, some say, you can watch an entire round on television and never even know who else is in the group with Tiger.
That's true. I've even complained about that myself. But you know what? Most of the time there really isn't anyone else in the same group with Tiger. There's certainly no one else in the same class.
Frankly, I don't blame the television cameras for locking in on Tiger. What could be more interesting? OK, so maybe one of the other guys in the group was my son or my son-in-law -- or maybe Michelle Wie -- I would want another face now and then.
But when Tiger's playing, it's hard to focus on anyone else.
Speaking of focus, has anyone ever done that better than Tiger? When the guy puts that game face on, nothing -- except for the inevitable camera click -- gets to him.
The only thing that bothers Tiger is when one of those laser iron shots comes up a couple feet short or long or right or left of where he is aiming. The guy's a perfectionist, and no one has ever been more demanding of himself.
When any other golfer makes a few bogeys, the analysts pick out swing flaws, character flaws or choke factors. When Tiger makes a few bogeys, it's national headlines.
When Tiger makes four bogeys in a row, the analysts figure he's either hurt something or he's deathly ill. They try to detect a limp or a grimace.
Yeah, he was hurting, all right. Nothing hurts Tiger more than a bogey. Except for two bogeys.
Tiger Woods is 30 years old. That's about the age that most golfers begin to reach their so-called potential. Well, here's a 30-year-old who's already won almost $60 million dollars on the Tour. He's won 12 majors, for crying out loud. Most golfers don't even qualify for 12 majors.
Back in his day, Jack Nicklaus was the favorite in almost every tournament he played. But Jack could be beaten. Jack had tournaments when he wasn't the best. Tom Watson proved that. Lee Trevino proved that. So who's proving it to Tiger?
It isn't Vijay Singh, even if he did claim the No.1 world ranking briefly while Tiger went a-courting with Elin and worried about his ailing father.
It isn't Ernie Els, who has everything but the ability to beat Tiger
It isn't Retief Goosen, who still hasn't fully recovered from crashing into the wall in the final turn at Pinehurst in 2005.
And it certainly isn't Phil The Thrill, who can find more ways to crash and burn than a Saturday night dirt track racer.
Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Phil Mickelson make one heck of a foursome. But where they're concerned -- talent-wise -- Tiger Woods is still a onesome.
Not everyone will agree that Tiger is the greatest. But tell me this: Who are you picking to win the Masters next April? Vijay, Ernie, Retief, Mickelson?
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