Can we now call Tiger Woods the greatest of all time?
Is Tiger Woods the greatest of all time? Some say Tiger, others say Jack Nicklaus. It was a question debated by almost every golf fan on the planet. So does Tiger’s 15th major win at the 2019 Masters change that? Two of our writers have their say…
Is Tiger Woods the greatest of all time? Yes
I’ll go further and say this is the greatest story ever told in sport, writes Dan Murphy.
It’s 11 years since Tiger Woods’ 14th major arrived at Torrey Pines as he fought the first of what promised to be a catalogue of career-ending injuries. That’s each of them on its own merits, let alone collectively.
First it was his knee and then his back.
And while his body fell apart over several years, so too did his personal life – even more dramatically and in scarcely credible fashion.
Think back to that excruciating apology of a press conference – quite literally – when he said sorry to his family and the world in general. That was in 2010. Is it possible to imagine a great champion being brought lower?
And this a man whose aura of invincibility had hitherto been his greatest strength, rivals melting away under the steeliness of his glare.
He has been arrested for driving under the influence – of what turned about to be sleeping pills and painkillers.
As recently as the beginning of last year, he was ranked 1,199th in the world.
He made noises in one 2017 interview to the effect that he would never play competitive golf again.
He could barely walk 18 months ago, let alone imagine picking up son Charlie to celebrate winning his fifth Green Jacket.
How does a man rebuild himself, physically and emotionally, and do both of these things while fighting an even more intimidating opponent, namely Father Time?
Millions wrote him off, which was one thing, while there were plenty who relished doing so, which was another entirely.
Tony Finau was inspired to get into golf by watching his final-round playing partner winning his first major 22 years ago in 1997.
Truly, Tiger’s major-winning career now spans generations. Those of us of a certain age dreamed of Tiger coming back for one last hurrah, reminding the younger generation of what it was to witness Woods in his prime.
Well, at Augusta, he out-lasted major champions like Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Francesco Molinari, Jason Day, Webb Simpson, Bubba Watson, Justin Thomas and many more.
And now, at 43, he has moved on to 15 major wins. Technically, that still leaves him three behind Jack Nicklaus’s all-time total of 18.
So is Tiger Woods the greatest of all time? Well, making comparisons across sporting generations is as spurious a pursuit as it is enjoyable.
It is my opinion that it has never been harder to be a serial major champion in golf than it is now.
The depth of talent, the relentless march of technology, the increased physical capabilities of the players and the deeper understanding of the game that comes from the deluge of information available – all these factors have contributed to making it that much harder to stand clear of the field.
That’s what makes Tiger’s 15 majors – and counting – worth at least as much as Jack’s 18 in my mind.
Truly, we’ll never see his like again.
To get the chance to see history in the making, as we have done, at the 2019 Masters is not just a milestone in golf but also in sport.
Is Tiger Woods the greatest of all time? Also yes
I tried to sit down and explain how this has all made me feel, writes Alex Perry.
As is the case in this wonderful job we do, I was furiously typing away when Tiger strolled up 18. I stopped for a few minutes to watch him finish the job. A solitary tear rolled down my cheek, then they were uncontrollable when Woods came off the green and hugged first his son, then his mum, then his daughter.
I still didn’t know what to say. In the end, I just punched five words into my Twitter feed:
The FIFTEEN-time major champion.
— Alex Perry (@AlexPerryNCG) April 14, 2019
How good does that feel? We’ve been describing Tiger as a 14-time major champion for so long it’s become second nature. And I bet almost every golf writer will do it at least once in the coming weeks out of pure habit. I know I will.
For 10 years we asked each other if he could win a 15th.
We said yes.
We meant no.
There was the high-profile divorce. The DUI arrests. The Surgeries. The topless Santa photo.
But if we admitted it he was done, we’d start to lose faith. No one wanted to say it out loud.
When we discuss what we’re going to disagree on in these Alternate Shot articles, it’s usually pretty clear which way we want to go. But when Dan texted me and asked me, “Is Tiger the GOAT?”, I knew we both wanted to say the same thing. As he says, this isn’t the greatest golf story of all time. It’s the greatest sport story of all time.
So is Tiger Woods the greatest of all time?
I think even Jack would say he is.