Was this latest Masters victory Tiger’s greatest win?

Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

Tiger Woods won the 83rd Masters on Sunday, punctuating a remarkable comeback from numerous personal and physical setbacks. It was Woods’ first Masters win in 14 years and first major victory since four back surgeries. Is this Tiger’s greatest victory?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Tiger himself wasn’t saying it was his greatest.  He said it ranked “right up there”.  But at this point, how can it NOT be considered his greatest triumph, in view of all he’s endured in the last decade? Note that I said “triumph”.  Probably his greatest “victory” was either his first Masters, or his annihilation of the field at Pebble Beach in the 2000 US Open.  But this one, on Sunday, was surely his least expected, and it came at the expense of a phalanx of recent major winners, most of whom were still in diapers when he won his first at Augusta in 1997.  I’m no Tiger fan, as I’ve said a million times before here, but this must be one of the greatest triumphs in sports history.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Life Member, PGA of Canada: I’ve always had trouble with the word ‘greatest’ as it has a tendency to diminish the accomplishments of others. However, the question asks for a comparison of Tiger against Tiger. In looking up the meaning of the word, I found 13 definitions which all basically meant PDG or better. If you are asking “is it the most significant”, we don’t know the impact yet. Who did it impact the most and was that impact the most yet? It’s difficult to say if the impact will be more than the ‘bomb’ he dropped with his first dominant victory at Augusta where he broke the ‘colour’ barrier in the ‘hood’ of barriers. He gave the gift of golf to millions of kids and people of all walks of life. He changed the ‘face’ of golf, his monster contracts lead the way to more $$$$$ for other Tour Pros and his gate attraction increased TV and ticket prices dramatically, which of course grew purses. But this one is different. This one is motivational. This one seems to be invoking compassion and even a sense of forgiveness from fans. My feeling is that it is touching many people including golfers who are middle-aged to older. There are lessons for kids and sure kids are loving a Tiger victory, but kids are people aged 15 or less and basically, they weren’t born when he last won. No, this victory is a revival, a resurrection of past idolization. This victory comes at a time when people, particularly middle-aged and older, are being tugged in many directions with politically manufactured influence which is forcing them to wonder about a lot of things they thought they believed in. Then, they get an island of reinforcement that says what they have believed their entire life “If you try hard and believe in yourself you can accomplish amazing things”! Just like Mom, and Dad told us when we were kids.

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): It’s certainly up there. I still think his 2008 U.S. Open victory on one leg in a Monday playoff is one of the greatest victories in the history of professional sports so I would place that one above Sunday’s victory. But this one is a close second. It checks all the boxes: the comeback narrative; the social redemption storyline; Tiger as the hunter instead of the hunted; winning his first major since 2008 at Augusta National of all places; the evolution of Tiger and Earl embracing at his first Masters win in 1997 to Tiger and his children embracing after the victory on Sunday, etc. Regardless of where you rank this victory among his career accomplishments, you cannot deny that it will have immediate, profoundly positive effects on the sport going forward. All of a sudden, every company is going to want a piece of Tiger Woods and the PGA Tour. Ching-ching $$$$$!

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I think you could say this is his greatest victory.  Obviously not his most dominant or impressive in terms of his play but given all he had to overcome to get to this point, and the fact that he had never won a major coming from behind in the last round, I think it’s his greatest victory.  Just look at his reaction after he won – that says it all!

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Because of the scandals, the surgeries, the physical and mental collapses on and off the course, and age factor, this was one of the greatest for any player. But if Molinari and Koepka didn’t suddenly start rinsing their golf balls and it took more than a bogey finish to win it, then it would be his greatest. Back in the day when he was dominant, and on those occasions when he was pushed in Majors and prevailed, those remain his greatest wins.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Not in golf terms it isn’t. I’d put the 97 Masters plus the U.S. Opens in 2000 and 2008 ahead of this win. However, in personal terms, this latest victory may be his biggest. At some point Tiger thought he might never play golf again. He proved last year that his physical skills were OK. This win was more a triumph of spirit and one that likely gives him the greatest personal satisfaction.

Tiger didn’t win by running over everybody as he did in his prime. This was a smarter, more patient Tiger. Moving forward, do you think the younger players are intimidated by this latest version of Tiger?

Deeks: No, I don’t, but they may start to be again.  I don’t believe the water balls on 12, or 15, had anything to do with Tiger’s presence.  They just choked, and Tiger played rock steady.

Schurman: They aren’t yet because this is the first time they’ve seen what they have been hearing about their entire golf life. This victory was Nicklaus-like. No mistakes. Play the shots the architect asked you to play to get a low score. Put yourself in position to be the beneficiary and wait for the others to self destruct. You don’t have to win it by crushing your way to the top. You can win by preparing properly, proper execution and patience. If you do all those things you have three chances to win: the others don’t play as well, the others make mistakes, or in a playoff. The best shot Tiger hit on the back nine on Sunday was on #12 to the center of the green. He went from fighting and grinding to realizing his game plan was superior and all he had to do was execute it into the clubhouse.

Kaplan: The idea of a patient, calm, collected, and ever-plotting Tiger Woods should be terrifying to everyone who plays professional golf. There were a few instances on Sunday when he wasn’t discharging expletives after pushed drives like in the past, but rather yelling at his ball to keep going toward the next fairway or into a certain area from where he could recover. That is a Tiger who is several shots ahead mentally and one that could be very dangerous going forward. Is it too early to start talking about him pulling off the grand slam this year?

Rule: Yes, they will be intimidated, but not as much as when he was in his prime.  Back then he didn’t make any mistakes when he was in contention.  This more patient Tiger has to be that way because he can’t overpower a course and run away from the field.  His putting still holds him back and if he doesn’t make big putts, then there won’t be the same Tiger roars in the crowd that add to the intimidation factor.  But he’s still Tiger, so guys will feel the added pressure when battling him down the home stretch.

Quinn: The red shirt intimidation days are long gone. These young guys are impressed by Eldrick not scared and most said it was cool to be around an event like the ones they watched on TV growing up. I think the guys who came of age while Eldrick was the most reviled, not revered, athlete in the world now are just amazed at his comeback off the course and, especially given the surgeries, on it.

Mumford: The old Tiger won with power and by making heroic shots nobody else would even contemplate. The new Tiger is wiser and more patient. I don’t think anybody is afraid of the new Tiger but they’re probably more wary now that they’ve seen what he can do. He’s certainly respected and other players will have to make sure they don’t get outsmarted by him.

With his 15th Major in the books, Tiger’s assault on Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors is alive again. Tiger is 43 years old and conceivably has 15-20 more majors to add at least three more wins. Do you think Tiger equals or breaks the record?

Deeks: I think he might win one more, contend in several others, but to make or exceed 18 is a very tall order. But then, I never would have said Tiger would make 15, so what do I know?  He’s a man of many surprises, he is.

Schurman: On last Wednesday I didn’t think so but with his ‘new’ dissect the course in a ‘Hoganesque’ manner I wouldn’t bet against him. He is driving the ball with control and his irons are on-line with excellent distance control. His putting wasn’t even average, and he still won. He used to win by miracle recoveries and putting to die for but if he plays like he did a Sunday we could be witnessing something incredible.

Kaplan: The race is back on!!! After that impressive showing, I’m going to say yes. He’s got plenty of chances to pull it off, as well as the mental and physical games to do it. For the last decade, I usually rolled my eyes at any pre-tournament talk of Tiger adding to his major total. Now, it is completely justified!

Rule: That’s a great question, and I’d handicap it at 50/50 at this time.  He can easily win another one this year, especially with the next two on tracks where he’s won majors before.  And he’ll still have at least 5 Masters in which he’ll remain competitive you would think, so I like his chances of getting to 18, and possibly 19, if he remains healthy, a big if for sure.  It’ll be fun to watch unfold!

Quinn: Not too long ago there was a good chance he’d never make another cut. (BTW, it’s so classic “Tiger” that he takes all the rehab credit and never mentions the miracle surgeon or his physio staff). But if his body continues to let him hit irons like the one on #7 Sunday, he should be able to contend at Bethpage and Pebble. I strongly doubt he’ll get another and am certain he’s a heck of a lot longer odds than 14-1 (like the was at Augusta) to get four more.

Mumford: I doubt it. There are some courses where Tiger’s knowledge gives him an edge – I’m hard pressed to call it an advantage – but there are many, many elite players that also have an edge in power, putting or shot-making. Tiger basically won the Masters this year by playing strategically and letting others self destruct. In the end though, three players were just a shot back and any one of them could have authored a different outcome if one shot or one putt had been just a whit better. Tiger’s ability combined with his experience and mental strength will get him into contention, but it may not be enough. I think this Masters win may be his final major.

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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