There is probably something wrong when a golfer has won more tournaments and more money than anybody else on the tour in a given season and you still have to ask the question: Is something wrong? A guy finishes with three firsts and two seconds in his last six events, the next thought on your mind shouldn’t begin, “Yeah, but …”
“I mean, major championships are the biggest events, and unfortunately I didn’t win any of the four,” Tiger Woods said Wednesday. “But as far as the season, it’s certainly been one of my most consistent seasons I’ve ever had. To have this many high finishes, I think it’s pretty good.”
Yeah, but …
We define Tiger Woods differently. That’s his fault. From the time he won his first Masters in 1997, he created a new standard. A ridiculous standard. The whatever-element-is-worshipped-more-than-gold standard.
There is golfer good. Then there is Tiger good. Six wins in the 2009 season: golfer good. Zero majors: Tiger bad.
Is it us? Do we expect too much? Or did we just hear Woods say too often that his success comes down to those four decorated corners of the golfing world that now we’re all so brainwashed?
He is here in Atlanta this week. He can win another tournament. He can win another $11.35 million if he clinches the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup on Sunday. So the week is not devoid of meaning. I’m just not sure how far north of change-in-the-couch cushions it ranks for Woods.
“I was watching the Golf Channel last night and somebody asked the question, ‘Would Tiger Woods take his six wins or Y.E. Yang’s two, the PGA and his other one [Honda Classic]?’” said Kenny Perry. “I started to think about that, and I think he would take the PGA over the six wins. He’s set the bar so out of control. He and Jack [Nicklaus] always said, majors are everything. That’s how we’re all ruled out here. It’s majors only. That’s how people remember you.”
Is that fair?
“I think so,” said Perry said, and he speaks with some perspective, having lost a playoff in this year’s Masters. “When you play in the majors, you realize how hard they are to win. You realize how difficult the conditions are that are thrown at you. You have the toughest competition. It’s a mental game as well as a physical game. It’s the whole package. To win one would be unbelievable. And he’s won what — 14? He’ll get to 20 before it’s all over. Unbelievable.”
He set this up. He won eight majors by the time he was 26, including three in 2000. He failed to win one in 2003 or 2004. Swings adjustments, we heard, and then he showed us. Over the next four years, he won his fourth Masters, two more British Opens, two more PGAs and a U.S. Open. That gave him 14. We later learned he had played in the 2008 U.S. Open with a torn knee ligament and two stress fractures in his leg. He didn’t play in the final two majors that year. Wimp.
For the most part, he has been the model of consistency this season. He has won six of the 12 non-majors in which he’s played. He has finished in the top 10 in 13 0f 16 tournaments. But in the four that counted most, he finished sixth (Masters), sixth (U.S.), missed cut (British) and second (PGA). He led the PGA after three rounds. But he blew a Sunday lead for the first time, shooting a 75 to lose to Yang by three strokes. It’s only the fourth year since that first Masters he failed to win a major.
He will draw the crowd this week, the sponsors, the ratings. He’s probably even win.
“There are a lot of things at stake,” he said.
Just not what he cherishes most.