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Sunday, July 23, 2006

Measuring Greatness

How do you measure greatness in athletics? Is it the number of championships you win, the grace by which you win with or the characteristics of how you win? Some greats like Michael Jordan, Lance Armstrong, Joe Montana and Pele won with a particular style that typified their talent and performance.

Tiger Woods in my opinion exceeded the greatness of those past sports heroes with his performance this week in winning the British Open. Each of the above named athletes were great in their own right and especially in the case of Lance Armstrong they overcame the longest possible odds to dominate their respective sports.

What made Tiger Woods performance different this week was his willingness to completely overhaul his game in order to continue his mastery of the opposition. Through the years critics whether in the media or just armchair experts such as myself have dissected Tiger Woods' swing changes and have criticized him for just being able to win on "bombers" courses with wide fairways and little penalty for missing a tee shot. It seemed Tiger could win whenever he wanted at Augusta where little penalty exists for wayward drives but couldn't handle the thick rough on the typical US Open course which also features the tightest fairways around. Only twice since Tiger turned pro have the British Open (St Andrews twice) or the US Open (Pebble Beach and Bethpage Black) been played on so called "bombers" courses. Each time Tiger won, but on tougher, tighter venues such as Pinehurst, Royal Lytham and St Anne's, Winged Foot, Murfield and Carnoustie, Woods has falllen short. That was until this week's masterful performance.

This week at short Royal Liverpool, Tiger Woods took the driver which is considered his biggest weapon out of his hand and did something few do these days in Golf: Hit iron off almost every tee to lay up short of trouble on just about every hole. This helped to insure that he kept the ball in the fairway and gave himself the opportunity to put spin on his approach shots leaving make-able birdie puts on otherwise daunting multi tiered greens. Tiger who normally leads every major in driving distance was near the bottom of the statistic this week, but instead topped fairways hit, a stat he didn't always fare so well in.

It takes true genius and confidence to change your game when you are at the top in order to stay on top. Much like the titans of business, society and politics, Tiger Woods swing changes and radical game plan won him another major championship, and answered his critics, including myself who felt he couldn't win on a shorter length course with tight fairways. Tiger is the king of the sports world for good reason.


Joe said...

Tiger certainly did show what a stud he is this week. What a performance!

Tampa Cane said...

Tiger Woods is one of the most amazing athletes of any period of time. He has masterd the psychological aspects of the game and his ability to constantly bounce back from adversity and poor play seperates him from the best of the best in other sports.

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I am the host of the Major League Soccer Talk and EPL Talk Podcasts and am frequent guest on other (world) football shows. I am also the publisher of various other websites including this one. I work in public/government relations in addition to my soccer work and have a keen interest in history, politics, aviation, travel,and the world around us.