Home' Australian Golf Digest : September 2017 Contents robbed of a race for the ages
We all missed out on tiger’s push for
nicklaus’ major record by dave shedloski
ransformational eras have been
rare in golf, and magical ones
rarer still. Perhaps none was more
consequential than the early 1960s,
when the charisma of Arnold Palmer
conjoined with television to send the
game’s popularity soaring.
Though purely speculative, it
can be argued that more recent history
might have proved more momentous had
events occurred differently after the 2008
US Open. Tiger Woods had just earned his
14th professional Major championship
with a playoff victory over Rocco
Mediate – despite competing on an ACL so
severely compromised that he underwent
reconstructive knee surgery days later. The
victory capped a Hogan-like stretch of six
wins and 11 top-three finishes in 14 Majors.
Tiger was 32 years old. A golfer’s career
sweet spot. And he seemed unstoppable.
Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 pro Majors,
perhaps the most iconic in sports, appeared
easily within reach. After all, Nicklaus won
seven Major titles after 32. Phil Mickelson
didn’t win his first until he was 33, and
Hogan won his first at 34.
For perhaps the first time ever, the
world’s most famous athlete was a golfer.
And the world knew it. Each of the four
Majors produced record final-round
television ratings for one of Tiger’s victories.
Woods, certain to climb ever closer to
Nicklaus’ summit, was poised to carry golf
to new heights.
Instead, a golden era passed unrealised.
When the 99th US PGA Championship
began on August 10 at Quail Hollow Club,
Woods was absent. Because of chronic back
injuries, he sat out his eighth Major in a row.
He has missed 14 Majors since that 2008
US Open and missed the cut in six others.
Yes, injuries have robbed him of reps, but
there is little doubt that the traumatic
events of late 2009, when revelations of
his extramarital affairs became fodder
for public ridicule and scorn, blunted his
Woods had 22 top-three finishes in
Majors through 2008. He has had one since
“You can’t help but almost feel that golf
was robbed, and I think we’re still shocked
that the quest ended so abruptly,” says
former US PGA champion Paul Azinger. “I
think we all were looking forward to the
next 10 years, to see if he could handle that
burden. And the way he had played up to
that point, you had to believe he could. I
think the world wanted to watch that.”
Nicklaus would have watched. “Of
course, I would have,” says the Golden Bear.
“ No one wants to see their records broken,
but if he did it, I would want to be the first
one to shake his hand. I don’t know what’s
going to happen, but I enjoyed my name
being mentioned beside his every time he
did something. It kept me relevant. More
impor tant, it was good for the game.
“ I hope he does get healthy again, and if
he does, I still fully expect him to challenge
Nicklaus, 77, remains the last link to
the man he surpassed for the Major record,
Bobby Jones. Nicklaus’ ability to add context
to Tiger’s pursuit of his record would have
amplified the narrative exponentially.
Golf today is in a good place, nearly
everyone agrees. A few from this next
generation will become great. Not one,
however, will be the next Tiger Woods, a
unique, hypnotic talent.
“The aura about the guy was so special.
And I miss that out here,” says Jason Day,
one of several players who has owned
the world No.1 ranking since Woods
relinquished his hold for good in 2014. “I
remember once at Augusta he holed a putt
at nine for a par, and the place erupted like
he holed out from the fairway. That was
the Tiger effect. He made even the simple
things seem big and important.”
And he did big things that were historic.
Perhaps we should be satisfied, as Jim
Furyk suggests: “Just be glad for what we
got to see him do already.”
No, we’ll never know what we missed.
We just know it could have been grand. An
opportunity lost. For him. For us. For golf.
‘I ENJOYED MY NAME
BEING MENTIONED BESIDE
HIS EVERY TIME HE DID
SOMETHING. IT KEPT ME
– JACK NICKLAUS
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