TIGER WOODS examines a green before attempting a putt during the final round of the recent Buick Open at Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club in Grand Blanc. Woods won the Buick Open by three strokes for his 50th PGA Tour Victory. -Andre Smith Photos
However, this year I made a comeback and got off the PUP list, obtained the appropriate credentials that allowed me under the ropes where I could walk the entire 18 holes with Woods as he held off fast-charging Jim Furyk to win his second Buick Open title.
On a beautiful, sun-drenched day of the final round of the PGA Tour event, I put on the shorts, a cool polo shirt, massaged my old legs, stretched for 20 minutes, and at the first hole, I was ready for the three-hour hike over four-miles of rolling, green lawn.
There is much debate in the sporting community about whether Woods is the best athlete ever.
The naysayers, which included me, believe that the great athletes are the one’s who run, jump and tackle. The physicality of football and basketball are intense indeed.
Golfers always reach for the hand-eye-coordination thing as its panacea for athleticism, but football, baseball and basketball all require that same skill.
I, like a lot of others, feel golf is the type of sport that requires repetition more than the classic athletic skills that were first documented when the Greeks started their Olympic Game-type competitions.
Since I do not play golf on a regular basis like my dad did, I’ve never gotten the full appreciation for the complexity of the sport.
Okay, I’m not a knucklehead. I truly understand course management skills, club selection, knowledge of the greens and their speed, and, the uncanny ability required to make the ball hit the clubface over-and-over again in its sweet spot.
It’s a matter of inches between a ball finding its way in the center of the fairway, versus it going into a homeowner’s window.
I had a revelation during this particular foray with Woods. Although I’ve walked with him at the Riviera Country Club, Nissan Open and Warwick Hills, that amazing total package that it takes to be a world-class golfer manifested itself.
It is more than a notion walking four to five miles in oppressive heat, maintaining one’s poise, concentration and energy level.
It takes some serious moxey, conditioning and mental preparation for Woods to accomplish all the things he has on the tour. In my humble mind, only Woods, LeBron James, and Venus and Serena Williams have lived up to the overwhelming hype.
At Woods’ press conference following his amazing 50th victory on the PGA Tour, he talked about his start in golf and his dad.
“All I did was practice when I was young,” Woods noted. “I would practice all week waiting for the chance to play the game on the weekends. In particular, I could not wait to challenge my dad and try to kick his butt. He was a pretty good golfer and we had some battles before I could ever beat him.”
Greatness is measured in a person’s performance against his or her peers. Woods has shown that he is in the upper echelon of athletes and has superior skill.
In fact, he is the youngest man ever to reach 50 PGA victories. He now stands seventh on the all-time list. Sam Snead has a PGA leading 82 wins and Jack Nicklaus is next with 73.
“It’s going to take a lifetime to get to the record,” Woods said. “It took me 10 years to get to 50, so 80 is so far out in the future I can’t even think about it.”
I understand Woods trepidation concerning the future.
“You never get there as far as a perfect swing,” Woods explained. “It’s a life-long endeavor trying to own your swing. I practice and try to get it right as I can. I do the same motion and hope that I do it that way in competition.”
Woods may not be overwhelmed by the competition right now, but the loss of his farther hurt him to the core; it took him a while to re-gather himself. He did not make the cut at the U.S. Open, the first time he failed to do so in a major tournament
“When I realized my dad would not ever see me play again, “Woods said, “I could not hold back the emotion that rushed through me.”
After walking three hours with Woods, I now know that golf is a challenging endeavor that takes real athleticism.
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