It’s hard to imagine someone inarguably labeled as one of the best (if not the best) golfers to have ever played the game could be considered underrated. But I honestly think he is. His record when he was at his peak is one of those where you just look at the numbers and can’t really get a sense for what they actually mean, because they are so outrageous. For all the incredible players we have the privilege of watching right now – and perhaps the depth of the game at the highest level is stronger now, making it more difficult for anyone to be truly dominant – none of them have come close to maintaining that level over a sustained period of time.
What Tiger did was extraordinary. As I think Nick Faldo tweeted, he transcended golf; he transcended sport. Which makes the publicity and ridicule surrounding his downfall perhaps understandable (although still unacceptable in my opinion) – being on top of the world brings with it its own consequences. But for people to treat it all as entertainment… this is someone’s life. Since when is it fun to watch a sporting icon come crashing back down to earth?
I’m no mental health expert, and none of us have any idea what he’s really going through. But perhaps it shouldn’t be a complete surprise that he has had the issues he’s had when you consider how much he must have sacrificed to reach the level he did. We all know golf can be a lonely sport, and trying to pursue excellence in any field doesn’t always feel worth it when you see what you have to be willing to give up. But fortunately for the rest of the world, Tiger chose that path, and committed to it with a dedication I’m not sure we will ever see again. Maybe that’s what broke him.
I would never condone the things he has done. What he put his family through and the disrespect he’s shown to some people is inexcusable and ripped apart my own image of him as a hero. The person you are will always matter more than the things you achieve. But to forget about his achievements; to pretend they are insignificant, to remember one of the best athletes this world is ever likely to see as a police mugshot would be even more inexcusable on our part.
He inspired more people than it’s possible to count. In a sport where no matter how good you are, your chances of winning are about as good as Leicester’s were of winning the league, he made it ok to want more, to be dedicated to more, to give your absolute all and more in your quest to go down in history. To find a way to win at your worst, to never give an excuse in a game where so many factors are out of your control… and to do it all in a world which didn’t want people of his race there in the first place. Those doors that he opened and barriers he broke go far beyond him, and despite what I said earlier, they probably have little to do with his character and everything to do with his achievements. But his achievements… they inspired more than a generation.
There are so many mind blowing stats I didn’t even know which ones to pick. The wins are one thing, but the consistency is ridiculous…
- In the entire year 2000, he only had one round above 73 (where he shot 75 on a day where the field average was 75.59).
- There is only one other player in the history of the PGA Tour who has won a single event seven or more times. Tiger has done it four different times.
- From 2002-2005, he only missed three putts from 3 feet or less… out of 1,540 (I feel like I should stop typing and go back to the putting green right now).
- Out of 45 events where he had the outright lead with one round to go, he won 43 of them.
- He’s the only player in PGA Tour history to win eight or more times on one course. And he’s done it at three different courses
- He played 142 PGA Tour events IN A ROW without missing a cut
- He’s spent 683 weeks as world number one. That’s six years. Or 4781 days… whichever number you can wrap your head around. (Golf Channel)
I count myself incredibly lucky to have been able to watch him when he was breaking and making all of those records. And to be honest I don’t think I truly appreciated at the time just how incredible that standard was… maybe it’s only now that I’ve been playing for longer and understand the game better that I can even begin to put what he did in perspective. He clearly has his flaws, and regardless of what the events of the past few days are about, I can never like his character properly because of what he did to his family.
But what he did for golf… and potentially what that meant for my own golf, and so many thousands or millions of others… that should never ever be underestimated or undervalued. Remember that.