There’s an ongoing debate about who the best golfer in the world is. Is it Tiger Woods, the man who has shattered all sorts of records, including the most white trash girls used to cheat on a wife (highlighted by such classy ladies as Raychel, Loredana, Joslyn, and Cori)? Is it Rory McIlroy, the 23-year old up and comer, who sits atop the World Golf Rankings? Or maybe even is it Freddy “Boom Boom” Couples? The choice is simple, and he’s also my favorite golfer.
The sports world has been enamored with Rory McIlroy lately. He won the U.S. Open at the age of 22, something we haven’t seen since, well, Tiger Woods won the Masters at age of 21. See, sometimes we forget just how great players have been because of off-the-field incidents. With Adrian Peterson nearly breaking Eric Dickerson’ single-season rushing record, we forget how great O.J. Simpson was. The man rushed for 2,003 yards in 14 games—that extrapolates to over 2,289 yards in 16 games, which would have crushed Dickerson’s record of 2,105 yards. We just forget about Simpson because of a few small run-ins with the law.
Tiger Woods may not have won a major since he won the U.S. Open in 2008, and he may have gone 107 weeks without a victory of any kind following his admitted infidelity, but that doesn’t tarnish his great legacy. Tiger, the youngest golfer to ever win The Masters. Tiger, the youngest golfer to ever complete a career grand slam, and the only golfer to win all four in a row. Tiger, the quickest player to fifty tournament wins. It’s impossible to make the case that Tiger Woods is the greatest husband and father in the world, but that doesn’t mean he’s not still the most dominant golfer of our time. And just because Big Lurch got high on PCP and ate his girlfriend’s face doesn’t mean he’s not the greatest rapper of all-time.
There are lots of ways you can nitpick at Tiger’s game. For instance, he’s never won a major while trailing after 54 holes. Sure, but he’s also the greatest closer in the game with a 14-1 record when he has at least a share of the lead going into the final round. That’s a fair trade-off. Yes, he does get angry and he does curse at fans and he does throw clubs when people take pictures during his backswing. But none of that negatively affects how dominant he was at his peak, and how dominant he may be, as he is only 37 years old. Jack Nicklaus won his final major at the age of 46, so I’d give Tiger a fairly solid chance to win four to five more majors in the next ten years.
Tiger is the lone golfer that is his own brand. Phil Mickelson may be very popular, but there aren’t too many dials being turned because Lefty is leading with four holes to go. Hell, Tiger Woods has the official PGA Tour video game named after him. He has (or had, in some cases) sponsorships from Gatorade, Nike, GM, Titleist, American Express, Buick, and TAG Heuer. Not only did he revolutionize the sport by forcing courses to move back their tees, he also monopolized the media aspect of golf, becoming even bigger than the sport itself at times.
Rory McIlroy may end up breaking the record for most majors in a lifetime. That record may still belong to Jack Nicklaus, or it may be Eldrick’s. McIlroy is a golf talent we haven’t seen since young phenoms Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, Rickie Fowler. Except none of that trio has lived up to expectations yet. Maybe McIlroy will become the greatest of all time one day. But he doesn’t have the pedigree, and at this point in his career—even if he officially the number one golfer in the world—I find it hard to put McIlroy ahead of Tiger.
(This was written as an assignment at Vanderbilt. Gotta love when you can write about sports for school.)