It is impossible for all the legends that have chimed in on Tiger Woods lately to be wrong.
Jack Nicklaus said at the Champions Tour event in Korea a couple of weeks ago that he still expects Tiger to reach 19 majors.
Tiger Woods lines up a putt on Saturday, June 1, 1996, during the final round of the NCAA Men’s Golf Championships at The Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tenn. Woods went on to win the individual title. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
This Nov. 10, 2010, file photo shows Tiger Woods at a news conference after his round at the Australian Masters Pro-Am event at Victoria Golf Club in Melbourne, Australia. Woods believes he finally is ready to move on after a self-destructive year that cost him his marriage, his mystique, millions in endorsements and, lastly, his No. 1 ranking. What remains are relationships to repair, along with his golf game.
Tiger Woods shakes hands with Jack Nicklaus after receiving the Jack Nicklaus College Player of the Year award in ceremonies at the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio, Sunday, June 2, 1996.
Tiger Woods holds his trophy aloft after winning the Las Vegas Invitational in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was the first win of his pro career.
Masters champion Tiger Woods holds a replica of the Masters Trophy after winning the tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., Sunday, April 13, 1997.
Tiger Woods celebrates as he wins the 1997 Masters with a record-breaking 18-under-par performance at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., Sunday, April 13, 1997. (AP Photo/Curtis Compton)
Tiger Woods celebrates after winning the 100th U.S. Open Golf Championship at the Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif., Sunday, June 18, 2000. Finishing at 12 under par, Woods topped second-place Ernie Els by a remarkable 15 shots.
Tiger Woods waves to fans after he won the 81st PGA Championship at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill., on Sunday, Aug. 15, 1999. Woods shot an 11-under 277, beating Sergio Garcia, of Spain, by one stroke. (AP Photo/Beth A. Keiser)
Tiger Woods, right, of the United States, holds the trophy as he makes his winner’s speech outside the clubhouse at the end of the final day of the British Open Golf championship on the Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland, Sunday, July 23, 2000. At center is South Africa’s Ernie Els and at left Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn the joint second-place finishers. (AP Photo/Adam Butler)
In this Aug. 20, 2000 photo, Tiger Woods points to his ball as it drops for birdie on the first hole of a three-hole playoff against Bob May at the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)
Tiger Woods reacts on the 18th hole after winning the 2001 Masters by two strokes over David Duval at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga. The win was Woods’ fourth straight major title, completing what many would call the “Tiger Slam.”
Tiger Woods, left, receives the 2002 Masters Green Jacket from Augusta National Golf Club chairman William W. “Hootie” Johnson. The win was Woods’ third Masters title and second in a row.
Tiger Woods gestures as he watches his shot to the 13th hole Sunday, June 16, 2002 at the U.S. Open Golf Championship at the Black Course of Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, N.Y. Woods went on to win by three shots over Phil Mickelson.
Tiger Woods, center, sits with his fiancee Elin Nordegren, left, and his friend Jerry Chang, right, during Stanford’s basketball game against Arizona in this Feb. 7, 2004.
Tiger Woods reacts to winning the 2005 Masters in a playoff with Chris DiMarco on the 18th hole during final-round play at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga.
Tiger Woods speaks at a press conference with the trophy after winning the 2005 British Open on the Old Course at St. Andrews. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Tiger Woods, right, reacts as he walks off the 18th green with his caddie Steve Williams after winning the British Open Golf Championship at the Royal Liverpool Golf Course in Hoylake, England Sunday July 23, 2006. The win was Woods’ first major title since the death of his father, Earl.
Tiger Woods holds up the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the 89th PGA Golf Championship at the Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla., Sunday, Aug. 12, 2007. The win was Tiger’s 13th major title.
Tiger Woods holds his left knee after teeing off on the second hole during the fourth round of the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego. Woods had reconstructive surgery on his left knee Tuesday, June 24, 2008, in Utah to repair a torn ligament. Woods went on to win in a playoff over Rocco Mediate.
Tiger Woods reacts after sinking a birdie putt on the 18th green, forcing a playoff against Rocco Mediate during the final round of the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego.
Phil Mickelson, left, winner of the Tour Championship and Tiger Woods, right, winner of the Fed Ex Cup, pose at East Lake Country Club.
Tiger Woods during his statement at the Sawgrass Players Club, Friday, Feb. 19, 2010, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Media outlets, such as CNN with reporter Susan Candiotti (far right), conduct live shows outside the Sawgrass Marriott in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., prior to Tiger Woods’ statement.
Tiger Woods answered questions in a press conference Monday for the first time since his Thanksgiving night accident that led to revelations of multiple extramarital affairs.
Tiger Woods during the final round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. On a Firestone Country Club course that he has dominated in the past, Woods posted his highest 72-hole score as a professional, including a closing 77 that left him in a tie for 78th place in the 79-man field.
Caddie Steve Williams holds a club as Tiger Woods hits on the driving range during a practice round for the PGA Championship.
Tiger Woods and swing coach Sean Foley watch Tiger’s swing video at the 2010 BMW Championship on Sept. 8, 2010.
Tiger Woods chats with the media after shooting 65 in the first round of The Barclays.
Tiger Woods doffs his cap after holing out for eagle on the 12th hole during Ryder Cup singles. In arguably his most dominant round of 2010, Woods claimed a 4-and-3 win over Francesco Molinari.
Tiger Woods of the U.S. and Steve Williams, caddie to Adam Scott, shake hands on the first tee during the Day 1 Foursome matches at the 2011 Presidents Cup
Tiger Woods of the U.S. celebrates with fans after the U.S. team defeated the International team on the final day of the Presidents Cup.
Tiger Woods celebrates after his birdie putt on the 18th hole to win the Chevron World Challenge.
Tiger Woods drops on No. 15 at Augusta National during the second round of the 2013 Masters. A day later, he was assessed a two-stroke penalty for an improper drop.
Tiger Woods won the Arnold Palmer Invitational on March 24 at Bay Hill Club & Lodge, Orlando, Fla. Earnings: $1,116,000
Tiger Woods after his seven-shot win in the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio.
Tiger Woods (center right) and Rory McIlroy (centre left) walk side by side during their exhibition at Mission Hills.
Tiger Woods’ injury suffered on this swing Sunday has his PGA Championship and Ryder Cup status up in the air..
Tiger Woods flashes a smile on Sunday during the Hero World Challenge at Isleworth Country Club in Windermere, FL.
International Presidents Cup captain Greg Norman recently suggested that Tiger won’t win another major.
Nick Faldo said that he believes that Tiger has lost the edge necessary to compete at the highest level.
And Johnny Miller has been all over the place when it comes to Tiger. In February, Miller compared Tiger to convicted rapist Mike Tyson. Recently, Miller has said that he believes that Tiger will have a second career and win 3 or 4 more majors but won’t win the fifth that would pass Jack.
Nicklaus, Norman, Faldo and Miller have greatness in common. Each of these players can speak to the pressures of being the best player in the world.
So how is it possible that four highly intuitive golfers who have watched the same things unfold over the past two years can come to such vastly different conclusions?
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The simple answer is: because no one knows.
The slightly more complex answer is because each of those players knows what he sacrificed to become the No. 1 player in the world. For all of their insight and for all of their accomplishments, it is impossible to know what to expect.
We will get another piece of the puzzle this week when Tiger tees it up at the Fry’s.com Open. With Thursday marking the 15th anniversary of his first PGA Tour victory, Tiger’s play this weekend will give us a good indication as to where his game is right now. If he wins, well, he was supposed to. If he doesn’t, then let the speculation continue.
Jack Nicklaus is the greatest golfer of all time. That is what the record books say and until there is a better barometer, Nicklaus is still king. Because he owns the record it would be unimaginable for Nicklaus to say anything other than what he has said about Tiger. I am not suggesting that Nicklaus is sugar-coating anything. Nicklaus is a gentleman in a gentleman’s game. When he was breaking the records of Nelson, Hogan and Snead, they were watching. They were there to shake his hand and congratulate him. There were no sour grapes at all those champions dinners and there aren’t any now. They pour only the good stuff at such occasions. So don’t expect Nicklaus to jump on the Tiger-bashing bandwagon. It is not his style or his position. He learned that from the very best.
As for the others, Tiger has eclipsed all of their accomplishments for the most part. Couple that with the fact that Faldo and Miller are two of golf’s highest-profile pundits, and you realize that they are in a virtually impossible situation.
When asked by a reporter in Singapore a few weeks ago about Tiger, Faldo gave a very interesting oratory into the mind of a champion. Faldo hasn’t gone so far as to say that Tiger can’t get back to form. Nick has done his best to explain why this time it will be harder – much harder.
Miller, by contrast, has never ducked a question in his life. It is what makes him one of the most interesting sports commentators on the planet. And the situation with Tiger has been fluid. Miller is honest to a fault and it is hard to give honest answers about the unforeseeable future.
Of the legends involved, Norman is the only one that actually has a stake in Tiger’s future (beyond TV ratings that is). As the International Presidents Cup captain, he has more than just a passing interest in how Tiger is playing in November. Norman has stated that he doesn’t believe that Tiger can get back to that single-minded approach to the game that pushed him to the No. 1 spot in the world. Fair enough, but isn’t it fool-hardy to poke Tiger if you have to face him – just in case?
Obviously it is unfair to ask these legends about Tiger and what might happen in the future because they don’t know any more than we do about what is going on with Tiger. His medical condition is a closely guarded secret. His family situation is held even more privately than that.
So, Miller, Norman, Nicklaus and Faldo have to interject elements of their own life and careers into their suppositions. That is what makes their answers so interesting and their points of view so divergent.
Miller used the term “second career” for Tiger and that may be accurate. If so, his second career starts on Thursday and presumably he is healthy. What seems most interesting about the situation is that Tiger is still the favorite this week and virtually any other week that he tees it up. Vegas not only projects him to win this week, many sites have him as the favorite for the Masters next year as well. What happens over the next few months with Tiger will likely have little impact on his legacy.
However, what happens this week and in the coming months will likely have a significant impact on that “second career” and what we might expect from it.
Or maybe not, but it is sure going to be a heck of a lot of fun to watch, and to talk about.