Wednesday, March 19, 2008


WHO is your choice for the title of world’s greatest sportsman? Muhammad Ali, Pele, Sir Donald Bradman, Jess Owens, Jack Nicklaus, Michael Jordan?

Pretty soon, we could be adding the name of Eldrick “Tiger” Woods to that list. Tiger still has a little way to go to surpass Nicklaus’s record of 18 Major championships – he has won 13 so far. But on current form, he could be ready to dethrone the “Golden Bear” in two or three years’ time.

Of course, in many people’s minds, Woods is already the greatest golfer of all time. In terms of statistics, records and other achievements, there’s no one to touch him. His dramatic, final-hole victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando took his current winning streak to six and put him joint third in the list of all-time winners on the PGA TOUR. He now has only Nicklaus (73) and Sam Snead (82) to pass. All this and he’s still only 32 years of age!

Woods has many remarkable traits; his professionalism, dedication and determination to win are certainly among them. Not only does he has have to battle 150 or so opponents over four days each week but he also has to compete against the elements. Tee times can be a significant factor in golf yet it seems Woods can defy anything and everything the Good Lord chooses to throw at him. With the able assistance of his trusty caddy Steve Williams, Woods approaches a round of golf the way a skipper of a racing yacht charts a course round the Cape of Good Hope. Nothing is left to chance.

You can make a case that no one is really challenging him at the moment. Whereas Nicklaus always had Tom Watson to contend with, Woods is simply streets ahead of Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh at the moment. They seem to be happy enough to settle for second best and feed off the scraps when, for once, Woods is less than stellar in one of the four Majors.


With the Masters approaching, some believe it’s just a question of how many majors Woods will win this year. Bookmakers are quoting odds of 12-1 against Tiger completing a single-season Grand Slam of Golf. Impossible? Maybe for Superman, perhaps not for Woods. He may not come from Krypton but he’s been on another planet from the rest ever since he first picked up a golf club at the age of two.

From child prodigy through adulthood, Woods has handled the pressure, the plaudits, the media’s constant probing with aplomb. Take the recent incident when Kelly Tilghman suggested on the Golf Channel that if Woods’ rivals really wanted to stop him, they should “lynch him in a back alley.” While civil rights leaders wanted Woods to publicly condemn Tilghman, he saw it for exactly what it was – an unfortunate slip of the tongue. Both on and off the course, Woods continues to impress as both a sportsman and a human being. No doubt he’s going to be the best dad in the world too! Serious about his profession he most certainly is, yet like most of the greats, he manages to retain a sense of humor.

There can be no argument that Woods is the greatest sportsman currently competing. Roger Federer holds a similar grip on tennis but, unlike Woods, he has yet to win all four of his sport’s major titles. Clay remains his Achilles’ heel. Golf may not require supreme athleticism. Colin Montgomerie, aka “Mrs Doubtfire,” has managed to win the European Order of Merit eight times, despite being a few pounds over his best fighting weight. Weighing in at around 185 pounds, and standing 6ft 1in tall, Woods’ pecs, power and precision are as close to perfect as you can get. So are most of his shots.

His hot streak will inevitably come to an end some time shortly. But as the saying goes: form is temporary, class is permanent. By the time he’s finished, Woods might well be top of the class for all sports.

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