Tone Down the Debate

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I have been asked repeatedly what I think about the implication by legends like Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player that Tiger's challengers are perhaps not as brave in standing up to No. 1 the way Lee Trevino and Raymond Floyd and Player stood up to Jack on more than one occasion.
 
This subject was bound to come up because the last time someone had the chance to win the year's first three professional majors was 30 years ago right here at Muirfield. Jack Nicklaus, whose records suddenly appear to be well within reach of Tiger, had that chance and was thwarted by Trevino.
 
The implication is - let's be blunt - that the kind of bravado and gunslinger's grin that Trevino brought just doesn't exist today. That the gambler's walk and assassin's stare that Raymond brought just doesn't exist today.
 
The modern players do not like the implication one bit.
 
Brad Faxon and Ernie Els, to name two, blasted back with implications of their own. They surmise that so good is Tiger that, while Jack certainly would have won majors, he would not have won 18 had Tiger been on the scene. And they go further to suggest that Trevino and Player and Arnold Palmer would have been lessened in stature somehow had they too had to deal with Tiger, just like Davis Love III and Phil Mickelson and Els.
 
There are passionate arguments to be made on both sides, and it is natural to compare the Packers of the '60s with the Steelers of the late '70s or 49ers of the late '80s. But in the end, we really don't know. It's nothing but speculation trying to project how one man would have fared in another era. Times were and are different.
 
What seems unfortunate on the eve of this magnificent charge up a hill no one has ever climbed, or if you prefer, Tiger's replication of what he alone has achieved once before - four professional majors in succession - is that we risk failing to appreciate his genius by dragging some negative element into it. Either that Tiger could do more with his power in affecting social causes the way Arthur Ashe did, or Phil Mickelson isn't in shape or that Muirfield doesn't admit women members.
 
Nowadays, there is always something to argue about. Debate, in sports and politics, seems incessant.
 
Genius, on the other hand, isn't nearly as prevalent.