Get set for more one-hit wonders on Tiger’s hit parade
Nobody is likely to dominate the majors like Woods did
Maybe it’s because Tiger Woods made the extraordinary seem ordinary by winning 14 majors in 11 years that it raised expectations of one-player dominance to unsustainable levels.
Woods was such a fixture at the top of leaderboards in his prime between 1997-2009, winning more than 70 PGA tournaments in that period, that his accomplishments were taken for granted at the time.
Besides wins, Woods’s consistency was remarkable. He made a record 142 consecutive cuts between 1998 and 2005, smashing the previous record of 113 held by Byron Nelson and 105 by Jack Nicklaus.Professional golf is an unforgiving environment where one bad shot can lead to a massive number (just ask Sergio Garcia who made 13 at the par-five 15th at last week’s Masters). To play so consistently well for that long is almost inhuman.
Woods also went through a streak of shooting 52 consecutive under-par rounds on the PGA Tour and topped the PGA money list nine times, including five times in his first six years on tour. He has spent 683 weeks at number one in the world of which 281 were consecutive.So when every new “star” now emerges, the expectations placed on that player have been set against those of Woods. Inevitably, the comparison pales.
Woods’s legacy has not only set unrealistic scales of comparison, but also helped create a situation in which players are unlikely to dominate in such a fashion again because there are so many more brilliant players on tour.
Woods not only helped develop more US golfers, he was responsible for a global explosion of wannabe Tigers from the late 1990s to early 2010s.Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy has often cited Woods as a major influence in his career while the American has been influential in growing the game, and player base, in Asia as well.
Almost weekly in Woods’s long absences over the past decade through a catalogue of injuries and personal problems, golf writers and fans ask: “Who is the next Tiger and who will dominate the sport like Woods did in the coming years?”The answer is nobody. Golf has moved into an era without one- or even two-player supremacy over the rest.
Of the last 10 majors played, nine have been won by first- timers such as Patrick Reed at this year’s Masters. But none of those players who won could be called one-hit wonders.
In 2016 current world number one Dustin Johnson, accomplished veteran Henrik Stenson and former world No 1 Jason Day joined Danny Willett as first-time major winners. In 2017 the unofficial best-player-never-to-win-a-major Sergio Garcia claimed his first major. These are not guys who came from nowhere.McIlroy and Jordan Spieth are obvious heirs to Woods and already have a handful of majors each to back up their claims. But they do not look like offering the same dominance.
Spieth, who has a knack for playing well around Augusta, certainly has several more Masters wins in him.
But as he pointed out recently, there are far more excellent players contesting who haven’t won a major than there are major winners. So the law of averages suggests that major winners are likely to come from the group that has no major wins.
HARDER AND HARDER TO WIN MAJORS
When defending his US Open title last year, Johnson highlighted the depth of the opposition every week.
“There’s a lot of talented golfers out here on the PGA Tour and throughout the world and it gets harder and harder to win majors because there’s just so many good players,” Johnson said.
Sports fans love a rivalry and sports relish a dominant person or team to cast as either the hero or the villain.
But maybe it’s time to accept that with the odd exception golf’s majors will be shared among hugely talented and hard-working players for the foreseeable future.
And it’s okay, because on any given Sunday the men who rise to the top have earned the right to be there.