Tiger's birthday brings more speculation than celebration

By Jason SobelDecember 30, 2012, 5:07 pm

On Sunday, I woke up and checked Twitter, which is sort of a reflex impulse these days. When used as a news and information source, the tool can provide a personal feed complete with facts you want and largely devoid of those which hold little interest. It's like watching the nightly news, but fast-forwarding through the parts you don’t need.

In this instance, I was immediately reminded that Dec. 30 is Tiger Woods' birthday. He turned 37 on Sunday.

Rather than supportive shouts of, 'Happy birthday!' or playful jabs at being over the hill, the mass reaction to this milestone was speculation as to how it will factor in his long-term career goals.

(To be fair, I'm not complaining about that. An entire feed of birthday wishes would probably be cause for more than a few unfollows. Remember: Twitter is all about customizing your own news and information. I’ll take analysis and debate over puffed up pasturage any day.)

I was initially met with tweets from fellow journalists in the golf community who took the occasion to compare Woods' career accomplishments before 37 with those of Jack Nicklaus. And more importantly, reminders of what the man he's chasing accomplished after this point in his life.

It turns out Nicklaus won four majors once turning 37 – one of each – so the unwritten logic not so subtly suggests that Woods must win more majors at a later age if he hopes to pass the major championship record of 18.

And yes, that's been a long-standing career goal, commenced not long after Tiger first took a few whacks on The Mike Douglas Show a mere 35 years ago. Just ask him, because it seems like everyone else has over the past three-and-a-half decades. He wants one record more than any other in his career, and that’s to pass the man whose poster adorned his bedroom wall as a child.

Personal goals are what give each of us the motivation and inspiration to continue improving on a daily basis. It’s when those personal goals become the expectations of others that the lines become blurred. Among his many philosophical musings, the innovative martial artist Bruce Lee often used to say, “I'm not in this world to live up to your expectations and you're not in this world to live up to mine.”

I was reminded of this quote upon reading the statistically based reactions to Woods’ birthday. His entire career – with 74 career PGA Tour victories and 14 major titles – has been broken down to one simple, and so far, unanswerable question: Will he or won’t he? As in, will Woods pass Nicklaus and be remembered as the greatest golfer of all-time, or will he fail to meet his stated goal and come up agonizingly short?

The debate makes for great 19th hole fodder, especially because neither opinion can be proven wrong until he’s no longer competitive. But it also serves as a sad commentary on how we view superstars. Being great isn’t good enough; failing to be the best is still failure.

Think about it this way: If you were, statistically speaking, the second-greatest doctor or plumber or insurance salesman of all-time, wouldn’t you consider that a successful career? Well, what if you had told everyone that you only wanted to be the greatest, that anything less was failure? And what if, instead of celebrating your accomplishments, those around you only speculated as to whether you would ever fulfill that lifelong goal?

It’s hard to feel sorry for a guy who is, at the very worst, the second-best golfer ever from a statistical standpoint, but it can’t be easy living with the constant pressure – both internally and from external sources – over reaching that goal of becoming the best.

With each candle that is added to Woods’ birthday cake, and each year that passes with the odometer stuck on 14, (he’s gone four straight now) Dec. 30 becomes a day less for celebration and more for speculation. It becomes another reminder that time is no longer on his side, that even matching Nicklaus’ career from here on in will leave him with “only” 18 major championships.

For a man who has so clearly set his sights on 19 to pass him, second place is the first loser – a notion Woods has often reminded us about when finishing runner-up at specific tournaments. It’s gotten to the point, though, where so much debate about his future has turned into a caricature of our society. Only one person can claim the title of best ever, but that shouldn’t relegate everyone else to the position of failure, no matter their stated goals.

Even so, people on Twitter and other sources used Woods’ birthday as a platform for further speculation about the most speculative question in the game today. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering he placed such lofty expectations on himself before the masses also wielded this anticipation.

For most, birthdays are reason for revelry and jubilation, with a hint of ennui toward turning a year older mixed in for good measure. For Woods – and for those of us who follow his career – it’s another reminder that with each year that passes, he’s either closer to reaching his goal or closer to coming up short. That’s a hell of a burden to have to bear.

As one person tweeted to me Sunday morning, “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” Perhaps that bit of Shakespearean wisdom could be amended to he who chases a crown, as well.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry