By Dan Reardon
Last week sports talk shows were dominated by conversations about two sports superstars: LeBron James and Tiger Woods.
James was heading into the NBA finals against Golden State, and his greatness relative to Michael Jordan was fueling debates. Woods was heading nowhere in particular when he was arrested and charged with DUI near his Florida home. The Woods conversations centered on his fall as a player and a person.
There was a time when the LeBron-Michael sort of debates took place with Tiger and Jack Nicklaus. Today the Woods conversations are solely about who he is, disregarding who he was.
A Woods-Nicklaus comparison is pointless now given what has happened to Tiger. Almost exactly nine years ago he damaged his knee prior to the US Open at Torrey Pines; his physical decline since then has been gradual but unabated.
It will be eight years in November since Tiger’s personal side came crashing down, also in a vehicle near his home. There was no greatness on the course then either to offset his indiscretions and mute the scandal.
While contrasting Woods with Nicklaus provides no value, comparing Tiger to those who have succeeded him does have merit. Greatness in sport is always measured by the players or teams who came before, and in 2017 Tiger Woods is still the player who came before.
Over the weekend, the Memorial took place at Nicklaus’ signature course at Muirfield, and the event always attracts one of the most elite fields. It’s an apt starting place for a Tiger vs. The Present assessment.
Woods has been capped at 14 majors since the win in San Diego in 2008. The top-20 names on the final Sunday leaderboard in Ohio represent only six. Advantage Woods.
The top 20 have collected a total of 62 career wins on the PGA Tour. Woods is all-time second to Sam Snead with 79. Advantage Woods.
The player at Muirfield with the most wins in a single year was Jason Day with five (Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas currently have three). Tiger Woods averaged 4.6 wins for 17 years, despite missing half the season in 2008. In 10 different years he posted five or more wins, topping out at nine in 2000. Advantage Woods.
Only one player in the group at Memorial has ever been Player of the Year — Jordan Spieth. Tiger Woods earned the honor 11 times. Advantage Woods.
Jason Day enjoyed the longest time ranked number one in the world out of the top 20 on Sunday — 51 weeks. Tiger Woods went over five years in that slot – a total of 623 weeks. Advantage Woods.
Phil Mickelson and Louis Oosthuizen currently enjoy the longest streak on Tour without missing a cut — 16. Woods’ all-time record was 142. Advantage Woods.
It took 12 years after Nicklaus won for the last time on Tour — the 1986 Masters — for the next Nicklaus to arrive. That, of course, was Tiger Woods in 1997. In this decade, there has been a rush to identify the next Tiger three times — Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day. How do each of them stack up against Woods’ record at their current age?
Rory McIlroy, 28, has 13 PGA Tour wins and four major titles. Tiger Woods at age 28 had 37 PGA tour titles and eight major wins. Advantage Woods.
Jordan Spieth, 23, has nine PGA Tour wins and two majors. Tiger Woods at age 23 had five PGA Tour wins and only one major title. Advantage Spieth.
Jason Day, 29, has 10 PGA Tour wins and one major. Tiger Woods at 29 had 38 PGA Tour wins and still only eight majors. Advantage Woods.
Some may remember that when Tiger was at the peak of his Tour dominance it was fashionable to go into every major and ask if you would bet on Tiger Woods or the field. With the US Open just around the corner, is there a player today that anybody would even consider wagering on against the field? Advantage Tiger Woods.
Dan Reardon has covered golf for radio station KMOX in St. Louis for 33 years. In that time, he has covered more than 100 events, including majors and other PGA, LPGA and Champions Tour tournaments. During his broadcast career, Reardon conducted one-on-one interviews with three dozen members of the World Golf of Fame. He has contributed to many publications over the years and co-authored the book Golf’s Greatest Eighteen from Random House. Reardon served as Director of Media relations for LPGA events in both St. Louis and Chicago for 10 years.