Maginnes on Tap: Opinions abound on Tiger
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.
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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?
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.