Monday, July 22, 2013

8 comments Rick Reilly Says Tiger Woods' Legacy is Being Ruined by Tiger Woods' Professional Success

Rick Reilly has decided to write another one of those "Why can't Tiger win a major tournament?" columns after the US Open. Actually, Rick spends a lot of time thinking in this column thinking about Tiger's legacy and basically wondering if Tiger's success has ruined his legacy. It seems that Rick has set high expectations for Tiger based on Tiger's early-career success and because Tiger can't reach those expectations anymore then this makes Rick wonder what Tiger's legacy will be. So basically Rick is defining Tiger's legacy as being a somewhat disappointment because of how successful Tiger was early in his PGA career. Rick also manages to slip a Bruce Jenner reference in, which is always an unwelcome surprise. It is unreasonable to expect Tiger to be as great as he was early in his career and it seems he will have to be known as one of the greatest golfers ever rather than the greatest golfer ever. This type of article annoys me because Phil Mickelson is older than Tiger and he has won five majors, while Tiger has won 14 majors, but it is Tiger Woods' legacy that we are so unsure of? 14 majors, no matter when they were won, seem to speak for themselves. I am sure now that Tiger didn't win the Open Championship that Rick is going to start to double up on the "Is Tiger Woods washed up" talk.

It's crazy, but let's say Tiger Woods never wins another major.

That would be so crazy if Tiger never won another major. He would then be considered one of the greatest golfers in PGA history. That's madness! What kind of disturbed mind could ever fathom such a thing?

Let's say he is done at age 37. Let's say he stops at 14, four short of Jack Nicklaus' record.

Let's say we won't use the phrase "let's say" anymore. Let's say we do that, then I would then answer this hypothetical by saying Tiger Woods will be considered as one of the greatest golfers ever whose rise was only matched by his fall. Then I would say he had a meteoric rise and a meteoric fall. Then I would curse Rick Reilly's name.

I don't want to constantly compare Tiger to Phil Mickelson, but Tiger has nine more major wins than Mickelson and Mickelson is older than Tiger. Say Mickelson never wins another major after the Open Championship, why isn't his legacy being questioned?

Or as a colossal disappointment?

The only way Tiger can be seen as a colossal disappointment is if you compare his early-career success to his late-career success. So essentially to call Tiger a disappointment a person would have to be using Tiger's success as a reason why he is so disappointing. This makes not of sense. Tiger exceeded expectations early in his career, so this doesn't mean he is a disappointment for not consistently exceeding the limits he himself has set for...himself.

As a brilliant star? Or a star that burned out halfway across the sky?

He was a brilliant star who had injuries, a scandal, and then struggled to win a major. I think we are being a bit harsh on him, because Tiger has won seven PGA tournaments since he last won a major.

Do you realize that this Tiger tailspin is older than his younger child? It's true: Sam is just about to turn 6. Charlie is 4. And Skid is 5.

Do you realize that you are cherry-picking data that has absolutely no meaning as to the legacy of Tiger Woods? It's the nature of sportswriters to overreact when Tiger wins a tournament and then overreact when Tiger has a poor showing in a tournament. It's not their fault, it's just their nature.

Sunday at the U.S. Open marked five years to the day since his last major triumph -- maybe his best -- the one-legged legend of Torrey Pines. 

Five whole years. Tiger can't match up to what he did early in his career, so he is obviously a disappointment. It's just like an NFL quarterback who puts up 5-6 years of being the best quarterback in the NFL only to fade into being just one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL for the rest of his career. Would we call that quarterback a disappointment? Probably not.

He has gone through the Mount Vesuvius of sex scandals, gotten divorced, moved his home, had more surgeries than Bruce Jenner,

Not hilarious and not-timely.

Now there's this little mumbling you hear in golf circles that (pssst) Tiger might have (keep it to yourself) lost a little of his (gulp) nerve.

So Tiger is now like other golfers on the PGA Tour. How could that be?

The scandal, the surgeries, the slow sucking of time might have turned him a little (cough-cough) scared.

How else do you explain a guy who wins all kinds of minors (13 during the streak) but no majors?

You could explain it by saying his surgeries and time have caught up to him where he no longer has the physical advantage or consistent swing that he once had over his fellow PGA Tour players. You could explain that Tiger just hasn't done well in majors for whatever reason, but it's not like many of the other best PGA Tour players have won multiple majors over this same five year time period. There are other explanations other than chalking it up to Tiger having lost his nerve.

Before this year's Masters, he had won three tournaments of his past four, then he finished a quiet fourth in Augusta.

It was a "quiet" fourth place. Not one of those loud fourth places finishes, but a "quiet" fourth where Tiger had 25% of his prize money reduced for the volume of his finish not matching the decibel requirement for a fourth place finish in a major.

In the 16 majors he has played in this five-year nuclear winter, he has won his last start before a major eight times. Yet never the major itself.

Which obviously means Tiger gets a lot of nerve up the week before the major and then loses his nerve entirely the week of the major. The fact Tiger has won eight times prior to a major isn't impressive, but just a sign of how disappointing Tiger has become.

Even more telling, he's often been The Old Tiger in majors when the pressure was off (Thursday and Friday) and The New Tiger when the pressure was on.

So Tiger is a disappointment because he doesn't play well in eight rounds during the golf year? He still wins minor tournaments, still plays well on Thursday and Friday in majors, but can only "quietly" place fourth in major tournaments because he can't handle the Saturday/Sunday pressure. Maybe he cracks under the pressure now that he doesn't have multiple women on the side. It's the lack of consistent sex from multiple partners that is bringing Tiger down. Just like Aerosmith can't write a decent song now that they are clean and not using drugs.

So what about it? If he's done winning majors now, what should be his legacy?

I'm not sure this question should be asked for a variety of reasons. Most importantly, Woods is 37 years old so his legacy is far from cemented. Next most importantly, this legacy that Rick Reilly is so intent on figuring out is assuming Tiger never wins another major, which isn't a point I am ready to concede. Next to that in importance, is that Tiger's early-career success helped cement most of his legacy. He is one of the best golfers in PGA Tour history.

Well, if Tiger Woods is really done, I think he would go down as the most gifted golfer in history and the golfer who wasted the most gifts.

How can you claim he wasted his gifts if he won 14 majors? Maybe that was the extent of his ability to use his gifts. Maybe I'm wrong, but the idea Tiger Woods wasted his gifts doesn't jive with his PGA record. He has won a lot of tournaments and holding him to the standard he set in his 20's doesn't seem fair to me. He set the bar high, so it seems reasonable to expect he can't always reach this bar he has set.

To win 14 majors in only 13 years, then to never win another? That would be like swimming the English Channel and then drowning in the hotel pool.

I realize it isn't an apples-to-apples comparison, but are the Patriots a disappointment because they haven't won a Super Bowl since 2004? Is Peyton Manning a disappointment as a quarterback because he has only won one Super Bowl? He starts the season off strong and then starts to fade in the playoffs, isn't that some criticism Manning receives? That makes him somewhat like Tiger, so does that mean Peyton Manning's NFL career is a disappointment?

14 majors in 13 years IS a career. It almost doesn't matter what Tiger Woods does after that, because for a decade-and-a-half he was easily the best golfer in the world. Also, Rick is still assuming Tiger will never win another major in an effort to ponder Tiger's legacy, which is not only ridiculous given Tiger's age but is also still a huge assumption in my opinion.

If Tiger Woods is really done, he'd be remembered as a strong man who wrecked his career with his own weakness. He'd be thought of as an immortal and an immoral.

If only Tiger had worn Ed Hardy shirts and spent his time taking pictures of him pretending to choke Rick Reilly then he could have avoided the women and immorality that ruined his career.

Tiger Woods was hit by an out-of-control Tiger. He'd be lumped with Mike Tyson, two men whose hunger for greatness was sunk by their hunger for lust. 

Yeah, these two athletes aren't comparable at all. Mike Tyson went to jail for raping a woman and Tiger Woods had multiple affairs. I know Rick has taken on the role of the moral majority since he suggested Colin Kaepernick needs to reconnect with his birth parents because it worked out so well for a member of Rick's family, but there is a difference in going to jail for rape and having multiple affairs. A pretty big difference. Notice how far this assumption that Tiger won't win another major has taken us. Rick just compared Tiger to Mike Tyson. This is what happens when you assume.

If Tiger Woods is really done, he would be remembered among the three greatest who ever played: along with Nicklaus and Bobby Jones. All three of them owned not only golf but the entire American sports landscape for a time. All three won tournaments at a dizzying rate. Yet neither of the first two could touch Woods, who won four professional majors in a row, a feat unlikely to be topped.

So why would it even be considered that Tiger could be a disappointment? How could this even be suggested if Tiger is one of the three greatest golfers ever, except he had even more extraordinary short-term success than the other two golfers considered the best ever? If Rick believes Tiger is among the three greatest golfers ever then there's no way he can be considered to have been a star that burned out halfway across the sky, could he? If that were true, what would that make Nicklaus and Bobby Jones?

He'd be placed alongside Arnold Palmer, who brought golf to the truck drivers and the waitresses. Woods brought it to people of color.

"People of color." I didn't know it was 1980 where Rick lives.

He is Kobe Bryant in long pants: awesome and feared and perhaps best viewed from a distance. 

Rick compares Tiger to another athlete who was accused of sexual assault. I'm not entirely sure Rick understands that having an extramarital affair is not considered sexual assault.

Do you realize that in the Merion media center, Tiger Woods had his own leaderboard? There was only one name on it: his. America might pull for Phil Mickelson

I don't cheer for Phil Mickelson. For some reason he annoys me. It may be his hair or how commentators act like he is the only golfer ever to have to balance his work with his family. Did you know one time he had a pager on him during the US Open in case his wife went into labor? He attended his daughter's graduation and then flew back to play a round of golf this past weekend. Every family issue involving Mickelson is treated like the first time a professional athlete has had to balance work and life.

Lastly, and this is unfair but no less true, but if Tiger Woods never wins another major, he'll be remembered not for what was but what could have been.

Perhaps by people who insisting on writing the narrative of Tiger's career before it is truly over and in the most dramatic way possible. Maybe I'm stupid, but I don't get the whole "What could have been?" narrative that Rick Reilly is furthering. We know what could have been and what was. Tiger showed us what he could do for 13 years and it was very impressive. Don't compare Tiger now to his early success as if it is reasonable to expect him to rip off winning a major every single calendar year. No other golfer in PGA history has done this, so why expect this from Tiger? He peaked and now he isn't peaking anymore.

My God, he had eight majors by the time he was 26. Even if the next 15 years of his career was going to be only half as good, he'd end up with 20, wouldn't he?

Rick needs to ask himself if these were reasonable long-term expectations for Tiger. He was going to get older, injuries would happen, and no other golfer has kept up this pace so why should he expect Tiger to keep up this pace? Tiger not living up to the unreasonable standard he set for himself does not make him a disappointment.

If Tiger Woods stopped winning majors now, it would make him a ghost walking among us, a living, breathing cautionary tale.

And the cautionary tale would be, "don't grow older and don't get injured, but also don't have success early in your career because people like Rick Reilly will always expect this from you."

He'd be trapped in a cage of his own design, living every day being compared to the incomparable -- himself.

But you, Rick Reilly, are the one who is comparing Tiger Woods to himself. You are doing this on your own accord, so couldn't you stop the cautionary tale by simply stop comparing Woods to himself and stop just assuming he won't ever win another major?

It's like the media can't stop themselves from creating narratives and then forcing themselves into the story. Rick states Tiger Woods is a cautionary tale because he will always get compared to himself earlier in his career, but Rick is the one creating this cautionary tale by comparing Tiger to his earlier self. Just stop holding Tiger to the expectations he has set for himself and the only cautionary tale about becoming worse at your job as you get older is that tale of Rick Reilly's writing career.


HH said...

The scandal, the surgeries, the slow sucking of time might have turned him a little (cough-cough) scared.

Tiger articles probably shouldn't contain the word "sucking."

Bengoodfella said...

HH, probably true. JemeHill actually made a good point yesterday (I know!). She stated Tiger's career is going backwards. He has to learn to struggle through the tough times that hit most golfers earlier in their career, while Tiger didn't know how to struggle and still win because he could just win.

Anonymous said...

Try playing Tom Brady's career in reverse, and see what the narrative is. AFC Championship Game losses to the Ravens and Colts, 2nd round loss to the Broncos (Jake Plummer!), 1st round loss to the Ravens, 2 Super Bowl losses to the underdog Giants (they went 16-0 and didn't win the Super Bowl). If all of that had happened before Brady won his first Super Bowl, I'd love to see the articles people like Rick Reilly would write. "Choke artist" doesn't even skim the surface.

Bengoodfella said...

Anon, guys like Rick would absolutely write that Brady was a choker who couldn't win the big game. I am sure the narrative would include ideas like Brady was "too Hollywood" or too focused on his life with Gisele to focus completely on football. The normal stuff that writers tend to write.

jacktotherack said...

What is so funny about golf writers in general, particularly assholes like Reilly, is they have to make these grand pronouncements after every single tournament without even considering the big picture. Sure, the way Tiger has played on the weekends lately makes you question when he is going to get #15. What is hilarious is that these same writers who are looking to bury Tiger are apparently oblivious to the fact that other guys on tour are competing and winning majors well into their 40's (Els, Lefty, Cabrera, hell Tom Watson was almost 60 and should have won at Turnberry).

Assuming they are watching these same tournaments I am, how could they be so stupid to assume Tiger might never win another major when he is 37 years old? He has at least 10 years of competitive golf ahead of him and I wouldn't be surprised if he was able to compete at Augusta and the Open well into his 50's. Maybe he will never get to 18, but to write him off now is extremely short-sighted, which appears to be a common trait among today's sports media, especially in golf.

Bengoodfella said...

Jack, that's very true. I think Tiger is going to struggle for a bit, but he will get #15 when we least expect him to.

I agree writing Tiger off is very short-sighted. Phil Mickelson is 43 years old and I have no doubt he will be competitive over the next decade or so. Tiger is just struggling right now, but he has been in or near the Top 5 of the last two majors. He's going to win another tournament. Why write him off so early just to get attention?

Anonymous said...

Not to mention Woods' Steroid abuse which is why his knee broke down so early.

Once a cheater, always a cheater.

Bengoodfella said...

Anon, so I guess you believe the rumors that he used PED's? It makes sense that his body could break down, but I'm not confident in accusing Tiger of using PED's. There is a lot of circumstantial evidence that hasn't told me too much personally.