Candidates Vying to Become Tiger Wood’s Heir are Faltering
Maybe it’s because this generation and mine grew increasingly fond of immediate gratification. Mine lived through the era of the big three in golf, and were loathe to give it up. Such was its power that we searched high and low for the heir apparent. Then along came Tiger and, like him or not on any level, he took it on with gusto. All right, so Tiger has flamed out, and the vigil for his return loses numbers of fans on a daily basis, but wow, did he ever keep it going for a while.
Immediate gratification requires another Tiger to come along, and the sooner, the better. And, every once in a while, we think we’ve found him, but it isn’t panning out quite the way we hoped it would. Talent on the PGA tour abounds, no doubt about that. Greatness among the greats, however, only comes to a small number of individuals, because there’s always one aspect, however small, that lets the wind out of the sails in the end. Tiger didn’t have one of those. He was complete, the way Jack was.
The fact that Tiger came along so close to Jack is an anomaly, and we’re just going to have to face that. From Isaac Newton to Tesla and Einstein in the 20th century took a few hundred years, and the same may be true for golf. Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, and Rory McIllroy have been perfect decoys. These are guys that exploded early onto the scene, and all are wickedly gifted, except for one small somewhere that is difficult to define. Any one of them can come out tomorrow morning and set the course record, shoot a 61 at a major. Any one of them can win a major going way by a massive number of strokes. Any one of them could pull off an enormous stretch at number one, and seem invincible from week to week. True, they can/could do this, but they usually don’t. Tiger Woods usually did, like Jack, one generation before – and therein lies the difference.
Jack focused on the majors, won 18 of them, finished second 19 times, and third 9 times. Just a few tweaks in retrospect here and there, and that majors record could be so far out there as to never be reached to the end of time. In his spare time, he managed 73 victories. Tiger had tucked his first major under his belt by 1997, at the age of 21. Over the following years, he was a contending presence almost without fail on any given week. He was number one for a five-year period, and fellow pros used to jokingly wager on who would finish second in specific events.
When Tiger appeared, the comparisons to Jack were immediate, and at the time, I thought Tiger should have responded, “You can’t compare anyone to Jack until he does what Jack did.” Tiger didn’t respond that way, but he did go out and play like Jack, something no one’s ever done since. Whatever the causes of his wash-out, there is no negating the spectacular reality of what he did in those years, enough to be placed in Jack’s historical company.
Tiger won big by number of strokes, number of tournaments, the money list, and any other mode of measurement you want to include in the discussion. He didn’t just win – he won big all the time. There was no fraud or suspect element to his game. Rory won two tournaments last year, Spieth won a Masters, and Fowler finally came of age. But, there’s no week in and week out presence to indicate that the heir is here yet. They are missing more cuts in majors than Tiger ever would have allowed, and always “in search of their swing.”
There are theoretical heirs, heir apparents, and “I went out and did it” heirs. With all of the exceptional people playing on tour these days, we still might have to wait a while for the next Tesla or Einsten, the next Jones, Jack, or Tiger.