Appreciate the magic of Tiger Woods, or at least what’s left of it in the encore to his extraordinary opening act.
I can see you rolling your eyes. Another column on why Tiger Woods remains relevant to sport in general, and golf in particular. Well, yes. When you’re rubbing shoulders with greatness and sporting royalty – as all of us watchers are doing in a metaphorical sense – let’s be careful what we wish for.
Tiger gets people talking and hollering, he puts bums on seats and takes bums off others and gets them to the course. All of which is a sideshow to one of the most recognisable faces sport has seen. This might be a golfing encore and it won’t ever match his main act, but more’s the point to appreciate the magic, or what’s left of it.
The last player to win the Ballon d’Or other than Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi (both five times) was Kaka in 2007. Yes, him. The year before him, Fabio Cannavaro was awarded the gong as the world’s best footballer, with Gianluigi Buffon and Thierry Henry second and third, respectively.
Throw all those names in the melting pot of sporting greats and only Ronaldo and Messi are good enough to go into the debate of best footballer, along with the likes of Pele and Maradona.
Let’s talk tennis. World No 1 Roger Federer – his 20 singles Grand Slams, the most ever – followed by Rafael Nadal. Both make strong cases to join Rod Laver, John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg and a couple of others as the best. On the women’s side, Serena Williams is still around. The same applies: a contender for GOAT.
We’ve just seen the back of Usain Bolt, whose legacy in retirement will grow as the greatest sprinter of all time. Lewis Hamilton has won four Formula One driver’s championships, three behind Michael Schumacher and two behind Juan Manuel Fangio.
In F1 much is about the car, but Hamilton is approaching the podium as one of the best, ever.
Elsewhere, things fall short. Heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua will never be near the top 10 of great heavyweights, cycling’s reputation is tainted by drugs, while some of the sports with a heavy American influence, like baseball, ice hockey, basketball and gridiron, will forever not have a global appeal.
So, let’s appreciate Woods for what he is. A golfer who might just be the best to have picked up a club, irrespective of ‘only’ sitting at No 2 on the list of Majors behind Jack Nicklaus.
Ernie Els might well have won more than four Majors had he not been in the Tiger era. Still, Ernie is a South African legend, a winner of four Majors and 71 times a winner worldwide, including 19 times on the PGA Tour.
Tiger? He has 14 Majors, 106 wins worldwide and 79 PGA Tour titles. Simply digest those numbers for a moment.
Why wish Tiger away? He’s made millionaires out of ordinary PGA Tour players because of the sponsor interest and TV ratings he has attracted. Rather celebrate the fact we live in a day and age where we can watch the likes of Ronaldo, Messi, Federer, Nadal, Williams and Hamilton ply their brilliance. And a 42-year-old Woods too. We’ll miss them when they’re gone.
And remember when Tiger took an enforced sabbatical at the end of 2009? He was eventually replaced as world No 1 by Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Luke Donald, and Majors were won by Graeme McDowell, Martin, Darren Clarke and Keegan Bradley.
Don’t be too quick to draw the curtain.