JEFF: The Imperfect Year
By Jeff Falconio
Contrary to what Dan O'Donnell thinks, I haven't quite reached the point where I think Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer of all time. But after the revelation that Woods played, and won, the U.S. Open with a torn ACL, it's getting harder to say otherwise. Tiger's performance was not just gritty or courageous, it might've just been the single greatest individual performance in all of sports. That's right, the greatest. I don't want to hear anyone say "oh, it's just golf, how hard can it be?" You try walking 7200 yards a day for five days in a row with a torn ACL. It's tough enough to compete in the U.S. Open. It's even tougher to to win it, just ask Rocco Mediate. But to win it as hobbled as Tiger was...well, that truly was greatness in the making.
Ever one to keep it real, I'm not going to sugar-coat Tiger's performance. This is not the year to aim for perfection. The New England Patriots fell flat in the Super Bowl. Big Brown faded fast at the Belmont Stakes. Now Tiger will cut short a year that was supposed to be a coronation. Most everyone said at the start of the year that Tiger would run the table and win every tournament he enters. I won't dwell on the fact that Woods must shut it down for the year after a great U.S. Open but I will say that it serves as a reminder of what I've said forever about Tiger: he's not Superman. He won't win every time he's out there. Believe it or not, he is human.
Sure, the shots all dropped for him at the Open but that was not the case at the Masters. You may recall that Woods looked tired, even a bit beat up, during the first major of the year. The shots were not dropping then. The real question now is, will Tiger return to form in 2009? Will he ever be at 100% again? Remember, he'll be 33 next season and as he gets older it will be tougher to stay healthy and in form. Jack Nicklaus went through the same thing when he reached his mid-30s. I'll stand by my comment, Tiger won't be the greatest until he surpasses Nicklaus and wins 19 majors. I'll tip my hat though, Tiger's title might go down as golf's finest achievement.