Golf’s major championships of 2013 will remain memorable because of the way Adam Scott, Justin Rose, Phil Mickelson and Jason Dufner played, and because of how Tiger Woods failed to perform.
Woods’ inability to bring home a major title this year is surprising, simply because he has played so well elsewhere – winning five times in tournaments with strong fields. He’s the obvious choice for PGA Tour Player of the Year and may well win again this season, during the FedEx Cup Playoffs.
But he judges himself, and wants other to evaluate him, by his work in the majors. His results: ties for fourth in the Masters, 32nd in the U.S. Open, sixth in the British Open and 40th in the PGA Championship.
So he’ll remain stuck on 14 major titles through his 38th birthday in December. By the time he tees it up in the Masters in April, he will have gone nearly six years without a major victory. Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors appears more unreachable all the time.
Of course, I’m taking credit for this. As an avowed defender of Nicklaus’ record, I’m relieved when every major tournament goes by without Tiger winning.
I’ve been accused of acting like some members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins, who celebrate every season when the NFL’s last remaining unbeaten team loses and their distinction is preserved. The suggestion is that anyone who cheers against Woods from a pro-Nicklaus perspective is just being selfish. My fascination with Woods’ chase of Nicklaus goes beyond merely rejoicing in his misery. The longer Tiger has to search for that 15th major win, the more meaningful it will become – if he ever gets it. And at that point, the game will be on again. His pursuit of Nicklaus has become much more intriguing than if he had kept winning majors every year, or even every other year, since 2008.
And in a sense, the latest series of majors underscored Tiger’s greatness. Think about how difficult it has been for Mickelson to reach five major victories – far short of 18, or even 14. Scott, Rose and Dufner are phenomenal players who were thrilled to win their first majors this year.
What’s wrong with Tiger? Not much, as those other five wins in 2013 illustrate. His overall showing in the majors just drives home the point that these things are tough to win, no matter how easy he may have made it appear. He’s obviously feeling the pressure of performing well at just the right time. Tiger seemingly always could summon his best stuff when he needed it, and now he’s falling in the same category as everybody else who plays this game.
Tiger’s troubles are just a reminder that golf is the only sport in which trying harder doesn’t help.