Monday, February 25, 2008

Enter The Tiger: Is the 'Grand Slam' truly in his sights?

Well ladies and gentlemen, we are all of 9 weeks into this PGA season and Eldrick 'Tiger' Woods seemingly has taken his dominance on the Tour to another level. With this past weekend's WGC Accenture Match Play Championship title, he has now won 6 straight events including his final 3 from the 2007 season (4 tour events, and 2 non).

Last year during the BMW Championship @ Cog Hill in Lemont, IL my friend Matt and I had the pleasure of watching Tiger paired up with 'Spiderman' Camilo Villegas during the 3rd round of the tournament. That was my first opportunity to see Tiger up close and personal, as we followed him for the round (minus bio breaks, food and beverage pit stops, or when we skipped ahead a hole to get a better view). We even stuck around and watched him get interviewed for XM Radio after his round. Everything I had seen on TV with regards to the size of the gallery that follows him, and the roar of the crowd when he makes an incredible shot was just magnified in person. It's a personal sports moment I won't ever forget, and it also marked the 1st victory in his current 6 event winning streak.

Seriously, is what he does tournament after tournament even humanly possible? I thought golf was a game that was made NOT to be perfected (think Robin Williams' stand up routine), and even though Tiger's game isn't 'perfect' by technicality (he doesn't birdie, or eagle every hole...), he could be the closest thing to perfect the golf world may ever see.

The PGA is made up of the top 150 golfers (Top 125 tournament money earners from the previous year, and 25 conditional tour cards. There are also exemptions given as well, but for the sake of this discussion let's call it 150), who are essentially the best golfers in the world. Any one of them on any given day, any time of day, could put anyone of us 'amateurs' (and I use that term lightly when it comes to my fledgling game) to shame on the links. I would hazard a guess that I'd be so demoralized that I probably wouldn't even want to play golf again if that were to actually happen.

Yet Tiger seems to be able to outlast, overcome, and many times overpower the field in a way that doesn't seem fathomable. He plays with that killer instinct mindset - he wants to win by as many strokes as possible. It's the "it ain't over 'til it's over" attititude to eliminate doubt and second guessing yourself at the end of the match.

Enter the blasphemous talk of capturing the Grand Slam...

When asked recently if Tiger thought it was possible to win the Grand Slam, he was quoted as saying "I think you can". As good as Tiger is, there definitely has to be some luck, timing, and good fortune added to that equation in order to pull off the "Triple Crown" of the golf world (that analogy doesn't QUITE work since there are 4 majors, but I'm sure you get my point). The most amazing part is the majority of golf and sports followers think it's possible that he can do it, and if not this season - eventually in his career.

As Tiger himself put it, "I had all four trophies on my mantle at the same time." Referring to the dubbed 'Tiger Slam' that spanned the 2000 & 2001 seasons where he won all 4 majors, but not all in the same calendar year. And as impressive as that was and still is, it's not the true definition of the Grand Slam. That will just have to be one more possibility for Woods as he enters the prime of his career. Just think about how absurd that last sentence sounded: "the prime of his career"??!! He just passed Arnold Palmer yesterday to become Number 4 on the 'Most Career Wins on the PGA Tour' list with his 63rd Tour victory, and he still has his best years ahead of him...Again, that doesn't even seem possible...

So, how will Tiger manage to continue to do the unthinkable? Maybe we'll get our first glimpse into that plan on April 10th in Augusta, GA.

1 comment:

sanjay said...

Don't really know much about golf, but this was interesting. At what age do golfers usually peak?