In his fascinating interview with Time magazine that offered a rare glimpse of Tiger Woods’ humility and frailty, the one-time golf colossus still managed to assert his own swagger.
It was in response to a question about the young stars of today, and how he hasn’t competed against the likes of Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth at full strength.
“It’s interesting to see how the game has changed,” Woods said. Then he slipped in the shiv: “In today’s game you don’t have to make cuts. And I see these guys miss so many cuts when they’re that good. To go out five times in a year and miss cuts, I just don’t see that. It doesn’t compute, because I haven’t done it. I think I’ve missed only 15 cuts in my career.”
It was subtle, this dig. At the same time Woods was praising the talents of his younger peers, he was noting that he never missed cuts like they do now. And it was interesting that he pointed out he has missed 15 only cuts as a pro. Want to bet that he knows Spieth has already missed the same number? Without mentioning Spieth by name, Woods had taken note that the season the young Texan had just completed wasn’t quite up to the standards he set in his prime.
He was right, as far as consistency goes. But in just about every other measure, Spieth, 22, put down a season that was remarkably close to Peak Tiger.
Woods in 2000 authored the greatest season of the past 50 years, even better than any single season from Jack Nicklaus. He finished fifth in the Masters, won the U.S. Open and Open Championship in blowouts and then took the PGA Championship in a playoff.
Spieth in 2015 won the Masters in a wire-to-wire victory, won the U.S. Open in a wild finish at Chambers Bay, but fell short of a Grand Slam bid with a fourth-place finish at the Open Championship and a second-place finish in the PGA. Even that fourth place is a little deceptive: Spieth was one shot out of a playoff at St. Andrew’s that might have kept the Slam bid alive.
So, Woods with three wins and a fifth, Spieth with two wins, a second and a fourth-with-an-asterix. Woods was 81 strokes better than the field average in those four majors, which is insane, but Spieth’s 65 strokes gained over the field in the 2015 majors was the second-best mark of the past 30 years.
Outside of the majors, the difference between the two was more pronounced. Woods in 2000 won nine times, finished in the top ten an absurd 17 times in 20 tournaments and, of course, didn’t miss a cut. Spieth in 2015 won five times, had 15 top-10s in 25 tournaments and missed four cuts. Also taking a touch of shine off Spieth’s season was the fact that in the middle of it, Jason Day took a serious run at matching it. He also finished just out of the Open Championship playoff, then won the PGA in a romp and two more FedEx Cup playoff events to finish with five wins on the season. It took Spieth’s win at the season-ending Tour Championship to solidify his hold on Player of the Year honours. In 2000, they could have handed that trophy to Woods in June.
Still, the fact that there are even comparisons to be made about Spieth’s year and Tiger at his best speaks to how good a season the Texan had, even if he came to pro golf with barely a ripple of the fanfare that preceded Woods in the late 1990s. Spieth was a strong amateur player at the University of Texas, but hardly transcendent, and turned pro in 2012, winning once in 2013 but not at all in 2014, where his most notable performance was blowing a Sunday lead at the Masters. Then he went out and had a season for the ages. He also managed to set a new standard for comportment, never failing to refer to his “team” when commenting on his success and sprinkling his conversation with “gosh” and “shucks” and “golly.” He is, quite obviously, rather unlike Woods in this regard. One imagines that most controversial thing Spieth will ever do involving a Perkins is ordering a second dessert.
Spieth has said the one shot he wants back from this year was his first putt on the eighth hole on Sunday at St. Andrew’s, which he knocked off the green from 100 feet away, setting up a four-putt. If he makes even a three-putt there, maybe we are talking about Spieth’s 2015 as the greatest season ever.
Instead, his breakout year, along with that of Day, sets up Spieth — and McIlroy — for something that Woods never could do, through no fault of his own: have a major-championship rivalry against other world-class peers in his prime.
It should be fun to watch.
Source: nationalpost golf news