Here is the thing about Tiger that, I guess, sums up my feelings: Perfection annoys me. And Tiger, frankly, annoys me. It's like debating art vs. science. I appreciate science. I'm even in awe of science. Science is necessary for our survival. But I love the messy imperfections of art. And yes, while Tiger can be an artist when the plan goes awry -- the famous chip on No. 16 in 2005 being the perfect example -- for the most part, he's a tactician, not a poet. And I like poetry.
It's not that I don't want him in the final group on Sunday. I really do. And when he's anywhere near the lead, I'm watching. What I want is for him to earn it. I don't want Stuart Scott telling me T-Dub is going win 30 majors dawg, I want to see Tiger earn it. Rick Reilly wrote a column about Tiger recently and it included a quote from Jack Nicklaus that I thought put it perfectly:
"You guys are all so willing to just hand it to Tiger: Greatest Player Ever, like it's over already," Nicklaus said. "And he'll probably wind up as that. But he has to do it first, doesn't he? And that means getting past all the injuries and things that can bite you. His swing has a helluva lot of torque in it, doesn't it? And he's going to have kids, right? There's gonna be a whole lot of times when he'd rather be at his son's football game or his daughter's dance recital. I'm just saying, the kid is amazing, and I'll be the first guy to congratulate him, but doesn't he actually have to do it first?"
I like the chase. I don't want to be told how the movie ends. I'm the guy who, if he misses the first episode of a TV show, he refuses to start watching until the DVD comes out. Why? Because I want to go on the entire journey. I don't want to skip ahead and be told how it ends. We live in a society that constantly wants instant perspective, instant analysis. Five minutes after Tiger beat Rocco Mediate on one leg, ESPN wants to declare it the Greatest Performance in the History of Golf. (Never mind that Ben Hogan won the U.S. Open little more than a year after a car accident that nearly killed him.) It's infuriating. Instead of pretending that Tiger wins every single tournament he enters (he doesn't) and that he's already the greatest of all time (he's not; until he gets 19 majors, it's still Nicklaus) can't we just enjoy the ride?
And while Kumar may have felt moved enough to leave his cushy TV job on House and join the Obama team because he believes in what they're trying to do, the idea that Woods would ever take that kind of principled stand is laughable. (Republicans buy drivers too. A lot of them. In fact, Tiger might even be a Republican.) I'm not one of those sportswriters who complains that Tiger doesn't speak out for civil rights or get involved in political causes -- frankly he can do whatever he likes, and his opinions are his business -- but it bugs me that everything that comes out of his mouth sounds like it was run past a focus group and market-tested for "likability" by Nike and Buick. Michael Jordan is really to blame for this, but he and Tiger have, between the two of them, inspired an entire generation of bland athletes who see themselves as corporate CEOs worried about offending shareholders. You know why Michael Phelps speaks in a revolving door of cliches? Because he grew up watching Tiger and Jordan pass off blandness as insight on SportsCenter.
Since you brought up Adam Scott and Anthony Kim, I think it's time to point out the obvious: Where are Tiger's true rivals? Can you imagine how many majors Nicklaus would have won if Tom Watson and Lee Trevino hadn't come along? Mickelson has won three majors. Watson won five bloody British Opens! All Scott has done is make my wife swoon over his Burberry outfits and Aussie charm. His putting is putrid in big moments. Kim had a fancy Ryder Cup and wears fancy belts. How about he steps up and competes in a major now.
See we're both boxing fans, how about this: I think Tiger is more like Lennox Lewis in some ways. Yes, he's a great fighter, but who was around to challenge him?
Lastly, speaking of Harry Potter, is it ok to talk about how hot Emma Watson is now that she's 19? I think she's gotten way too hot to play Hermione. No way would Harry be rolling with Ginny Weasley if Hermione looked like Emma. Harry was as good at Quidditch as Tiger is at golf, and yet Ron wasn't even the equivalent of Mickelson. Ron was more like the Zach Johnson of Quidditch, and yet he gets the girl? No way.