The following is a letter I sent off to a college buddy of mine who is loving Tiger a bit more than I am. I am no less impressed by Mr. Woods. It those other peckers with woods in their hands I can’t stop laughing at.
ESPN weighs in with one perspective (below).
Someone else has picked up your argument about Tiger Woods. He’s arguing that Tiger is the greatest individual athlete of all time. You probably already agree with that.
For me, the jury is still out because of one simple thing…Tiger’s primary competition is Phil Mickelson. Take Muhammad Ali. His primary competition was Joe Frazier. Mickelson is in absolutely no way remotely comparable to Joe Frazier. In fact, if there were a golf-equivalent to Joe Frazier in the golf world, I feel comfortable saying Tiger would not have yet won 12 majors. He might still be the lead dog pulling the sled, but his singular dominance (by definition) would not be in evidence.
I’m going to roll with Ali at this point because that’s my immediate reaction. I could just as vehemently argue for Jim Thorpe. What I won’t do is concede that Tiger is the best. I have very little respect for his competition. These are not tough men. These are highly skilled automatons who lack personality, charisma and the essential competitive fire where shit-talking transforms the game from a friendly competition over a million dollars to a bar brawl over the sanctity of your mother’s name. Tiger does not have to deal with any of that from his competitors. Phil is fat and sloppy. Sergio needs some hair on his chest. And the average golf fan doesn’t know any golfers younger than Fred Couples and Greg Norman – neither of whom had much testicular fortitude when it came to majors.
This is a game that requires nerves of steel – but so is boxing and auto racing. I could make a case for AJ Foyt. When your competition is as weak as Tiger’s appears to be – and they are, it casts aspersions about an era. Pete Sampras, as dominant as he was, did not compete in an era with players like Borg, Nastase, McEnroe, Connors, Geraulitis and others. Tigers achievements, unlike those of Sampras, are largely unprecedented – and must count for alot. Still, when it comes down to Joe Frazier and Phil Mickelson, I simply can’t stop laughing.