Chasing Jack

Parker Fox, Editor-in-Chief

It seems odd that golf historians put so little emphasis into number of wins on the PGA Tour.  Ever since Tiger came on the scene in 1996, a player’s career has become more and more focused around the four annual major championships, with regular tour events losing prestige.  Simply put, the game has become international.  A victory at one of the four majors means a player went out and took down the best players in the world in 72 holes.  Tiger will probably end his career with over 100 PGA Tour victories, but this figure is misleading.  Woods plays only about fifteen times a year, focusing on peaking for the more important events.  If his career was judged on total victories, Tiger would certainly play more often.  Often gun-shy with the media, Tiger has been strangely open about his real career goal: to pass Jack Nicklaus, who has eighteen majors to Tiger’s fourteen.  At this point money has almost no meaning to Woods, who made history a few years back by becoming the first billionaire athlete.  When Tiger sets down his clubs for the last time, he with be judged as the best ever or just one of the best ever based on one statistic and he knows it all too well.

                Tiger’s last major victory came in 2008 at the U.S. Open Torrey Pines in San Diego.  For the first time in what seemed like forever, Tiger was not expected to win the event.  Although the uneducated observer may consider golf to require little athleticism, all would agree that a golf club cannot be swung effectively with a broken leg, which is exactly what Tiger played on.  After considering shutting it down prior to the event to undergo season-ending surgery, Tiger made the decision to tough it out and leave it all on the course for the U.S. Open at Torrey, a course where he has had incredible success.  In a historic display of physical and mental toughness, Tiger went on to defeat Rocco Mediate in a playoff on Monday, earning him major championship number fourteen.  He had surgery the next day, forcing him to play king of the remote instead of range rat at Isleworth for eight months.

                Then came the infamous cheating scandal.  Tiger was humiliated in front of the entire world, forcing him to take time away from the game to reevaluate his life.  That ended in a divorce from his wife, Elin, who is doing just fine now.  Tiger also split from his swing coach Hank Haney and long-time caddy Stevie Williams, eventually replacing them both with Sean Foley and Joe Lacava, respectively.  He struggled with various injuries and swing changes throughout 2011 and some of 2012, finally prevailing with a PGA Tour victory at the Arnold Palmer in Orlando.  But a disturbing pattern (for Woods fans, at least) persisted throughout 2012, with Tiger seeming to lose his nerve on the weekend.  He played well at both the U.S. Open and the British Open, only to blow it all away on Saturday and Sunday.  Clutch play being the cornerstone of his career, many wonder if the scandal in his life has altered Tiger’s ability to focus and close things out on the weekend.  In spite of a catastrophic triple bogey on the par 5 13th at Augusta National in the Masters last week, Tiger still contended into the weekend.  Already with three victories on tour this season, many believe that Tiger is “back.”  But until he wins his first major since the fire hydrant incident in Isleworth, Tiger cannot be considered to be “back.”  Time is of the essence if he is to ever pass Jack, who won his last major just before his fiftieth birthday.  Tiger is 37, with a body that seems to be falling apart.  Personally, I believe if he can get one major this season, he breaks the record.  Otherwise, time may be running out on Tiger’s career and his legacy as the best player of all time may be more debatable than he would have liked it to be.