While the mainstream media rejoiced in seeing Tiger Woods return to the top of his game last weekend at the Masters Invitational at Augusta National, there continues to be a problem with the redemption story arc for the 15-time major winner at this point in his career.
Woods certainly has paid his dues since crashing his life, figuratively and literally, so many years ago. He has suffered adversity, injury, and personal criticism for a decade, really. Going 14 years between victories at Augusta, too, had to hurt his ego/pride. In that sense, it was rewarding for real golf loyalists to see him succeed again on the big stage. He has earned his way back, truly, and we have no issues with that.
Yet the problem remains, one we discussed last year in this space, with Tiger and his inability to focus on much beyond his own realm of achievement. While the single-minded purpose serves a golfer well in most cases, it lets him down in larger ways that mean something to the golfing world.
His career 13-21-3 record in Ryder Cup play, after yet another abysmal showing at Whistling Straits in 2018, is an embarrassment to any American that identified as a golf fan. Why can’t Tiger win in the Ryder Cup matches where he is partnered with a teammate? It remains the big asterisk on his otherwise amazing career.
The 9-19-1 record in best-ball and foursome play, however, stains all else he has accomplished. Why can’t Tiger find it in his game to play well when partnered with a fellow American, trying to defeat the Europeans?
It is too late to redeem this part of his resume, as well, for Woods would have to win every remaining Ryder Cup group-play match left in his golf bag to get back to .500 in those situations, and that is not going to happen this late in his storied career.
Keep in mind, the true greatest golfer ever—Jack Nicklaus—posted a 16-8-3 record in overall Ryder Cup matches as he partnered with teammates to register a 12-4-1 mark in group play.
Until Tiger figures out how to match Nicklaus’ intensity and success in Ryder Cup play, his 2019 Masters doesn’t really add anything to his legacy, which continues to pale in comparison to the Golden Bear’s achievements.
It makes for nice storylines and helps golf generate some revenue from fans who otherwise are not interested in the game unless Tiger wins, but Woods will never be able to match Nicklaus overall in the pursuit of the “best golfer ever” title. He lost that race a long time ago.
Remember, Nicklaus has outdone Tigers in major wins overall (18-15), runners-up finishes in majors (19-7), Top 3 finishes in majors (46-26), Top 5 finishes in majors (56-32), and Top 10 finishes in majors (73-40). Most of these comparisons are not even close.
The Ryder Cup issue is just another reason why Woods always be just second best. Tiger is not finished yet, of course, but it’s a steep uphill climb at this point for Woods. His all-or-nothing, singular focus has cost him dearly in a career that could have been so much more if he’d only been a more-balanced person on and off the golf course.