Sunday, April 1, 2012

Haterade: Every Golfer Not Named Tiger Woods

With the sport’s biggest tournament just around the corner, the spotlight on Tiger Woods is shining brighter than ever -- even more so this year than in years past because he’s healthy and playing well leading into it. After his 72nd PGA Tour win in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill a week ago (3rd all-time behind Sam Snead [82] and Jack Nicklaus [73]), the anticipation, the hype, and the swing all look primed for one hell of a ride at Augusta National.

Let me preface by saying that I am arguably the biggest Tiger Woods fan I know, so I apologize beforehand if you do not share the sentiments (ahem, Jonathan Mok).

I’m the guy that told everyone to reserve judgment when news of his infidelities came out, even though deep inside I knew it wasn’t going to end well.

I’m the guy that is so enamored with his mannerisms around the golf course that I imitate them in my daily life. The way he picks up his tee, twirls his club, and fist pumps to the crowd are all unbelievably awesome to me.

You know how people wear jerseys of their favorite teams when watching the big game? I’m the guy that wears my Tiger Woods hat and a victory red golf polo on the Sundays Tiger plays.

And at the end of the day, I just want people to appreciate the type of talent he is. His entire swing has been changed and retooled three different times, he has had four major surgeries on his left knee, and events all around the world have been “Tiger-Proofing” their courses in an attempt to promote better competition throughout his career.

But this isn’t about Tiger Woods -- it’s about the other guys. I admit that my fandom is utterly ridiculous. I realize that my views are biased. And I understand that my hatred for everyone else on the tour is completely unjustified. But I don’t care.

Since Tiger lost his #1 official world golf ranking on October 10, 2010, there’ve been a total of four guys who have held the title: Englishman Lee Westwood, German Martin Kaymer, Englishman Luke Donald, and Irishman Rory McIlroy.

Lee Westwood (Total: 22 weeks)
Lee Westwood is a solid player. He’s a consistent striker of the golf ball, and he spends a lot of time giving back to his fans through outlets such as his twitter.

But in my opinion, you cannot be genuinely viewed as a great player until you win a major championship. When it comes to his performance in majors, he has been the runner-up twice, but he has also missed the cut a total of 14 times. Really? 14? Tiger hasn’t even missed 14 cuts in his entire career, let alone in major championships.

He has two PGA Tour victories, one in 1998 (Freeport-McDermott Classic) and one in 2010 (St. Jude Classic). So what the heck was he doing during the twelve years in between? Well, he was busy “dominating” the European Tour. Not a knock against the European Tour or anything, but that’s like dominating the NBA D-League. Again, I am not discounting it, but there is no question that the events on the PGA Tour consistently are fielded with a higher number of quality players. To be the best, you have to compete against the best. And throughout Westwood’s career, he has chosen not to do this.

Martin Kaymer (Total: 8 weeks)
First off, who?!?

To the surprise of many, Kaymer does have 10 wins on the European Tour, including 3 titles at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, and a PGA Championship from 2010 to his name. So why haven’t we heard more about him? To put it bluntly, the guy exudes boring-ness. Nothing about him is exciting -- his game, his personality, his demeanor.

Maybe that’s the way he likes it. Just quietly go about his business, pick up wins, and rack up official world golf ranking points. But this isn’t 1950. In today’s day and age, you need to market yourself in a way where fans can connect with you. It’s a world that promotes individualism. And considering the fact that Kaymer plays in an individual sport, it’s in his best interest to stick out.

Maybe he should watch this video in his free time.

Luke Donald (Total: 42 weeks)
A very steady player. In the last 12 months, he has picked up five wins on the PGA and European Tours and a bunch of top 10 finishes. However similarly to Westwood, Luke Donald has no major championships to his name. That’s like a consistent team in the NBA who wins 50 games each year, makes the playoffs, but has no championship hardware to confirm all the regular season success. I’m talking to you, Phoenix Suns. And quite honestly, he hasn’t even gotten close.

Arguably in his best year as a professional golfer, 2011, he finished 4th at the Masters, 45th at the US Open, 8th at the PGA Championship, and he missed the cut entirely at the British Open. I mean, wouldn’t you want the #1 ranked golfer in the world to compete in majors on a frequent basis and actually win some of them too?

Until Donald does this, he will always be relegated to the second tier in my book.

Rory McIlroy (Total: 2 weeks)
Widely regarded as “The Next Tiger Woods.” Give me a break. The kid is a nice player, and maybe even a great player. But there’s no such thing as the next Tiger Woods. Remember when pundits would try to find the next Michael Jordan... when Michael Jordan was still playing? It was not only absurd at the time, but it was also fundamentally disrespectful. This is why you have a list of guys that includes Isaiah Rider and Harold Minor.

Furthermore, Tiger doesn’t cave under pressure like Rory does. Yes, I’m talking about the 80 that he posted in the final round at the 2011 Masters. He had a four-stroke lead going into the final day only to end up finishing tied for 15th. Better yet, he had a 1 stroke lead after the first 9 holes then proceeded to triple bogey the 10th and double bogey the 12th. If I was a writer for Gym Class All Stars a year ago, Rory would have undoubtedly been featured on Party Foul.

I’m sure this rant sounds like I hate the guy, but I don’t. All I’m asking is for some patience. I realize golf desperately needs a superstar that potentially can fill Tiger’s shoes once he’s gone. But the truth of the matter is Tiger isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and it’s unfair to the game and to Rory to put that types of expectations on him. Let’s just wait and see if he can get closer to the 72 wins (he has 3) and 14 majors (he has 1) that Tiger currently holds before we put him on a pedestal.
But hey, if you want to crown him, then crown him.
Its like what Kobe Bryant said when he was referring to James Harden and Kevin Durant after one of the Laker/Thunder games earlier this season: “Maybe one day, they’ll be able to sit at my lunch table.”
Until next time, sip that haterade...
PS: What the heck is the MLB doing starting the regular season in Japan (Seattle v. Oakland) a week before the rest of league actually starts? Freaking Bud Selig.
April’s What’s Poppin’ topic: Hip Hop and Basketball
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All good points. I agree with all the hate for Westwood, Kaymer, and Donald. I used to love Tiger (who didn't?), but I just can't bring myself to cheer for the man anymore. It's hard to believe how far he and his image have fallen in a few short years, but maybe that just goes to show how clean-cut he was portrayed before that fateful Thanksgiving night. All in all, he is the GOAT, but in an individualistic sport, like you said, his life choices and personal problems are supremely intertwined with his success and possibly too great to overcome.

When it comes to being a fan (short for fanatic) of a certain team or a certain athlete, I am blind to everything that is negative. I acknowledge the imperfections but I choose to ignore them. There is no rhyme or reason. Tiger for life.

Martin Kaymer read the article and retaliated with this.

Nice video, but still... WHO?!

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