Tuesday, June 17, 2008

"Rant on, Simpson, but your vainglorious boasting will only add savor to my inevitable triumph..."

Ranking Tiger's Majors: After the raging success of our last collaboration, Shuk and I are back at it again. The timely topic of the day is Tiger Woods, so I had the "terrific idea" (Shuk's words! Look it up if ye doubt the claim) to rank his major titles from least to most compelling.

OK...after this post and the inevitable Euro 2008 post-mortem (sentence guaranteed to make an appearance therein: "what the hell, Czech Republic?")...and probably something about the Olympics, I promise* not to talk about sports (or sports-related video games...or dreams I had about sports) here until I bring back the Little League World Series running diary in late August. Deal?

* = promise not binding

Kyle's List

14. 2000 U.S. Open: It was the 100th U.S. Open and this made it especially important to Tig--zzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Look, he won by 15 shots. There's really not a lot to be said. It's the single most dominating golf performance I can remember watching....and the only thing that was remotely entertaining was Tiger hitting his tee shot into the Pacific Ocean on Friday afternoon and proceeding to lose his fucking shit on national television.
Response: Wow, that didn't take long to have a massive disagreement. It wasn't fascinating to watch a (presumably) mortal human completely decimate a course that most would consider one of the toughest Open courses of them all? It was astounding enough to see him obliterate Augusta, but at least on that course, you could conceivably see someone going on a roll and getting a ton of birdies. But a U.S. Open course? That's like seeing someone pick off the lowest 15 briefcases on Deal Or No Deal in their first 15 guesses. (Yes, that's the best analogy I could come up with at the moment). I had forgotten about the mini-controversy surrounding Tiger's bad language. Give me a break, if there's any sport where cursing should be allowed with no questions asked, it's golf.
Follow up: for the record, I had no problem with the outburst (rather, I found it hilarious). Post-Nipplegate, it's gotten even worse, as I witnessed Johnny Miller smarmily apologize to viewers after Tiger said "dammit" after an errant tee shot on #1 yesterday.

13. 2000 British Open: Same thing, approximately six weeks later. Another tour-de-force performance, with Tiger humiliating the field (winning by eight) and, to be fair, the course itself (he didn't hit in a single bunker--St. Andrews has 112 of them--the entire week). I think (but am not certain) that this is the same tournament where David Duval, while paired with Woods, took--and I'm barely even joking here--five shots to get out of a pot bunker. (Arguably, that story has a happy ending, since Duval--stunningly--won the British Open the very next year...although he hasn't one since then and can barely break 80 at this stage, so the jury may still be out on that one...)
Response: Agreed. How many shots do you think it would take one of us to get out of the bunker? Over-under on 15.
Follow up: I'd probably take the under but, without a doubt, I'd be trying to hit it laterally (or even backwards) after two misses. Of course, my uncontrollable weeping would probably work against me here, so...

12. 2006 PGA Championship: this took place at Medinah (where Tiger had also won the '99 PGA...I believe the bid that came in second was "the putting green in Tiger's backyard") and, no surprise at all, Tiger won in a romp. Aside from Tiger and Weir both shooting 65 on Saturday, I remember absolutely nothing about this tournament. Let's just move on.
Response: Apparently both the PGA and USGA keep giving majors to Medinah because it's the best course in the Chicago area and both organizations want to those big midwest sponsorship dollars, even though few would consider Medinah truly elite. Olympia Fields isn't very impressive, and Cog Hill has always had the Western Open (though with that tourney's new rotation system, it's been heavily rumored that it might get a U.S. Open sometime between 2015-2020).
Follow up: hmmm....I was going to suggest Merion Golf Club, but apparently it's in Pennsylvania. Stupid geography!

11. 2005 British Open: Nicklaus's last British Open, plus it was played at St. Andrews, which made it especially meaningful for...well, you know the rest. Tiger led from start to finish, eventually winning by five, and was never seriously threatened. Tiger absolutely owns St. Andrews, and, as Shuk covered in a terrific post last year, you can already pencil him in for another Open Championship win in 2010.
Response: Agreed.

10. 2007 PGA Championship: ah, Southern Hills, site of 2001 U.S. Open gagfest. Tiger enters Sunday three clear of the field (and, with Stephen Ames--an accomplished golfer who, nevertheless, will probably never seriously threaten for a major in his career--lurking in second alone--this had to feel like a six stroke lead; Ames went on to shoot 76), saw his lead dwindle to one on the back nine (thanks to an improbable run by Woody Austin--heretofore best known for nearly knocking himself unconcious with his own putter in the '97 Verizon), then won by two. Pretty ho-hum, I suppose, but not a total runaway.
Response: I think Austin's adventures with the pond at Royal Montreal might now trump his self-flagellation with the flat stick. Good ol' Stone Cold Woody Austin.
Follow up: ah, yes, Frogman. I almost included that link, too. Here it is.

9. 2002 U.S. Open: much was made about the Open coming to a public course (Bethpage Black in upstate New York, site of next year's open)--indeed, Feinstein wrote a semi-tedious book on the subject (Open--no joke, there's an entire chapter dedicated to groundskeepers that I'm fairly certain even groundskeepers refused to slog through). Tiger commemorated the occasion by doing what he always does: wearing people down and winning going away. Jesus...some of these were good weren't they?
Response: Feinstein just got unlucky. His book would've been a lot more interesting if the tournament itself had been at all compelling. As it was, Feinstein probably was thinking "Oh shit, I'm going to have to stretch that paragraph about the groundskeepers into a whole chapter" while watching the trophy ceremony.
Follow up: This is also how The Punch, which I believe was written initially on a cocktail napkin, became a full-length (and staggeringly dull) book.

8. 2002 Masters: Tiger defends his '01 title (and, I guess, gave the jacket to himself--Shuk, do you remember how they handled this? I think it would've been funny if they brought in Vijay--who won in 2000--to do it again). I didn't remember this, but Woods was tied with Retief Goosen going into Sunday (with Mickelson four back). Unfortunately, Goosen--in his efforts to his solidify his title as "calmest golfer in PGA history to be inexplicably terribly in the final round of majors" (I know he's won twice...still)--shot a 74 to Tiger's fairways-and-greens 71, and there was little drama on the back nine.
Response: I think when it's a back-to-back champion, the club president presents the green jacket. BTW, one of Bill Simmons' most enduringly funny bits was when he noted Jim Nantz's behaviour during the Butler Cabin ceremony. I can't help but giggle uncontrollably every year since I read that article. Anyway, poor Retief. I still can't believe he blew the lead in the 2005 U.S. Open. I would've bet a thousand bucks on him winning that thing after leading going into the final round.

7. 2001 Masters: Tiger entered Sunday one shot ahead of Phil, and, with the two of them paired together in the final group (and, I think it's safe to say, not exchanging a single word during that 4.5 hour round). this had the makings of an epic. Unfortunately, this was before Phil got the memo that he was actually, you know, allowed to win these things...as his respectable two-under 70 left him three shots behind Woods. This was the culmination of the so-called "Tiger Slam," in that would held all four major trophies at once, albeit it not in the same calendar year (he won the the last three majors in 2000 before taking the '01 Masters). A couple things of note here: (1) this win is responsible for possibly my single favorite Sports Illustrated ever, and (2) I've come to look at this win with disgust since Woods, despite being an alleged student of
the game, would argue--incredibly disingenuously, in my view--that he had actually achieved the actual "Grand Slam" of golf. To which I'll say: had he won the next three majors (interestingly, he never threatened again in '01), would he count that as two Grand Slams?
Response: Ooh, here's something else we can argue about. I think Tiger actually did win a 'Grand Slam.' It's not like in baseball, where you wouldn't say a guy hit for the cycle if he homers in his last at-bat on Friday and gets the next three hits on Saturday, since in that case it's different pitchers, different conditions, etc. I can't argue with Tiger's point that he had all four major trophies on his coffee table at the same time, so that should be a Slam. Maybe I just found it amusing that Tiger would have the trophies and the green jacket out on his coffee table. "Hey Tiger, do you want me to use a coaster?" "Sure, I think there's one under the Wanamaker Trophy."
Follow up: sigh...but it's always been "all four in the same calendar year." Let me preface all of this by saying that what he accomplished in 2000-01 was amazing and unparalleled. That said: I think the best analogy is probably tennis. If Steffi Graf had lost in that '88 Australian Open final to Evert (something that, I'll note paranthetically, would've scarred me for life), won the remaining three slam events that year, and then took the '89 Australian (as opposed to winning all four in '88 like she actually did), you can bet they wouldn't have counted it as a Grand Slam. In fact, as I was looking this up, I discovered that Graf did precisely this in '93 (French, Wimbledon, U.S.) and early '94 (Australian), and...? It didn't count. I don't see why a different standard applies to Tiger.

6. 2006 British Open: proof that, not only is Tiger more physically gifted and mentally tougher than everyone else on tour, but also that he is flat-out smarter, too. Playing at Hoylake, Tiger hid driver precisely once off the tee, choosing to sacrifice distance for accuracy. In a stat almost too ridiculous to be true--but it's from Wikipedia, so it must be!--Tiger, using his two-iron for the most part, missed four fairways all week (driving accuracy: an other-wordly 92%) and won by a million actually only two strokes (but it seemed like much more). I watched this in Korea (where, due to the time difference, it aired late it night) mere weeks after I arrived and it was particularly soul-crushing, partly due to the fact that the commentary was exclusively in Korean, but mostly because I remember wondering aloud "will anyone on tour ever man up and take down Tiger on Sunday?" and concluding that, no, they will not. Two years and three more Tiger majors later, I stand by that position.
Response: Tiger has been taken down before...what made his 2000 season so amazing for me was that even though he had the three majors and all the other wins, he also lost that great duel with Hal Sutton at the Players and lost to (of all people) Mickelson at the Tour Championship. I think Tiger mght've been blown that latter tournament with the 54-hole lead, one of the (I think) three times that's ever happened. One was to Phil, one was to Lee Westwood, as I learned during the five seconds of this weekend's coverage when they actually deigned to discuss Westwood, and the other was to Ed Fiori, in Tiger's third-ever pro event. How many times do you think Ed Fiori has told that story over the years? Fifty thousand? Sixty?
Follow up: I believe Fiori actually follows Tiger around from tour stop to tour stop, regaling people with his Sunday heroics...until they flee. This usually takes about 75 seconds.


(If we were ranking Tiger's Amateur titles--and it's important to note that, rightly or wrongly, Tiger considers his three Amateur titles as majors--I would put this here--> 1994 U.S. Amateur: playing at Sawgrass (my favorite course on tour--bonus!), Tiger trails by six holes after the morning 18 in the final, and is down by five with 12 holes to play, but wins seven holes down the stretch to take the title, and, in the process, inadvertently ruins runner-up Trip Kuehne's life. In retrospect, this event is made especially hilarious by the fact that nineteen-year old Tiger wears: a Panama hat, shorts, and a not-even-remotely-tough horizontally-striped pastel shirt.)

5. 1999 PGA Championship: The famed duel with Sergio. This also marked the beginning of the irritating trend wherein players, after having competed fiercely with Tiger precisely once, are anointed "Tiger's Next Rival." To a varying degree, this has applied, at one point or another, to Garcia, Vijay Singh, Bob May, David Duval, Ernie Els, and Phil Mickelson, and it's never been true. Tiger is--and remains--peerless. Of note is Mike Weir, playing with Woods in the final group on Sunday, shooting an absolutely horrific 80 in his first serious run at a major. Dad and I were practically catatonic after this one.
Response: Agreed about the PGA. Oh shit, I forgot about the Amateurs. Well, I guess it's just as well, since I don't even think I watched the 1994 and 1995 Amateurs, though I do remember Tiger's goofy outfit from a picture in SI. His battle with Steve Scott in 1996 was pretty sweet, however. I think I might've put that in the top five. (Note: the '96 final, which was tied after 36, went to extra holes, with Tiger winning on the 38th.)

4. 1997 Masters: This may seem out of place given his margin of victory (twelve strokes), but the whole thing was absolutely electrifying at the time. After opening with a front nine 40 on Thursday, Tiger plays the next 63 holes 22 under par--amazing. And I actually remember being riveted as Tiger stood on the 18th tee on Sunday, since he was one clear of the tournament record. He proceeded to hit his tee shot approximately 600 yards left, but was able to recover. Most exciting par save to preserve a twelve-stroke victory in history, I dare say, and a terribly important day, period, in golf's history.
Response: Agreed. The most impressive part of Tiger's career is the fact that he is one of the few phenoms in sports history who hasn't just met expectations, but he's blown them away. People were predicting that he might break Jack's record, but I don't think anyone foresaw him being four majors away by age 32.

3. 2005 Masters: The showdown with Chris DiMarco. Very exciting. Tiger starts the day three shots up on the field and shoots a very respectable one-under 71. DiMarco, however, pulls off a 68 and they go to a playoff, where, predictably, Tiger birdies the first hole to win it. The one thing I will say about this tournament--and this is probably the biggest problem with Tiger--is that it wasn't terribly suspensful. Tiger started the day three up and you just knew that, whatever happened, he wasn't going to lose. He just wasn't. This isn't terribly profound, but it's gotten to the point where he needs to be two or three shots back on Sunday for it to be even remotely interesting (or like, say, four down and confined to a wheelchair). Still, there are far worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Response: The problem with Tiger being behind on Sunday is that he never seems to come from behind and snag it, at least at a major. It's a curious statistic --- all 14 of his majors have come when he's held at least a share of the lead after 54 holes. Not even once has he emerged from being even one shot down.
Follow up: agreed. It use to amuse me to no end that Nicklaus finished second an amazing seventeen times in majors, as I thought this would be a record that Tiger would never approach (because, so the theory went, if he ever got close, he'd just win). But Tiger's now done it five times (all in the last seven years). Interesting.

2. 2008 U.S. Open: too soon and too high? Arguably yes on both counts, but given that I had this at #2 even before the playoff (which was riveting and indeed a required a playoff itself to be resolved), I'm pretty comfortable with this placement. By virtue of Saturday night alone, where he went from 5 down at 8 p.m. to 1 up just after 10 (thanks to two near-miraculous eagles on 13 and 18 and a--even he'll admit--fluky holed out chip on 17), this is one of his most exciting wins. Add to that the dramatics of Sunday afternoon and the surprisingly tension-filled playoff on Monday and you have the makings of a classic. Put it this way, in Tiger's fourteen major victories, he's faced three elimination putts--meaning: a putt he had to make, or one from someone else he had to fade, to stay in the tournament--and two of them were this week (see #1 on this list for the other).

Given that he wasn't fully healthy (though I do think he was milking this more than a little bit, witness the fact that his knee was fine anytime he needed to celebrate) and that he was fighting his swing the entire week, I'm having a hard time deciding if this is one of his most impressive or least impressive wins. Ultimately, I think it's the latter, since (cliched though it may sound/be) he simply appears to want these majors more than anyone else. Here's another platitude I'll throw out there: he refuses to lose. As I said to anyone who would listen at my grandpa's house when he was lining up that must-make 12-footer on 18 on Sunday, "it's hard-coded into his DNA not to miss these putts."
Response: I missed Saturday's round due to being at a Toronto FC game, but heard about it that night at a party from my pal Ian. Hearing Ian describe the action was arguably just as fun as seeing it, since Ian got gradually more and more fired up while relating the story, and I got more and more fired up hearing it, and I think we may have high-fived after it was over. Good times.
Follow up: jumping in the air freeze-frame high five or just regular high five?

1. 2000 PGA Championship: a comparatively easy pick (we'll probably have to discontinue these lists if Shuk doesn't have this in the same spot), Tiger's back nine duel with journeyman Bob May on Sunday, followed by a delightfully intense playoff (ultimately, Tiger won by a single stroke over three extra holes, going birdie-par-par to May's par-par-par) was (and is) the best example that people can point to and say "this is what final round golf with Tiger in the hunt should be like." Not Tiger being all rangy (some shades of this yesterday, truth be told), not Tiger never threatening, or (worse) Tiger lapping the field because his playing partner wilts under the pressure, but Tiger put to the test. Let the record show that May stared down Woods and did not blink (shooting a 66 on Sunday to Tiger's 67) and, were it not for a tricky-as-hell downhill curling ten (possibly less) foot putt by Woods on 18, May would've hoisted the trophy. Amazing tournament...brought down only slightly by the fact that Valhalla Golf Club (the pride of Louisville, Kentucky) is, by all accounts, an incredibly shitty course. I'm dismayed to discover that it's hosting the Ryder Cup this year--care to explain how that happened, Shuk?
Response: The PGA of America is a co-owner of the course and they want a return on their investment. Simple as that. The original plan was to make Valhalla the unofficial 'home course' of the PGA sort of the same way that St. Andrews is the unofficial main course of the Open, and thus give it a tournament every five years. Needless to say, plans changed. I think the word on the street is that the course has had some renovations done since 2000, in part because the players' collective reaction to hearing that it was hosting the Ryder Cup was Peter Griffin-listening-to-Buzz-Killington rubbing of eyes and sighing.
Follow up: I just remember the interminable delays on the tee in '00. This clearly won't be an issue for the Ryder Cup, but for all subsequent majors held there: look out.

Shuk's List

14. 2006 PGA Championship: I rank this the lowest simply because it was a foregone conclusion before the clubs were even taken out of storage. There was not a doubt in my mind that Tiger was going to destroy Medinah (for the second time), and unlike in 1999 at this same course, nobody came close to giving him a run for his money. The margin of victory was an impressive but not eye-poppingly dominating five shots, and...well, I'm already out of interesting things to say. Shaun Micheel came in second, so I guess it's good that we know he didn't fall off the face of the earth after 2003. I nominate his PGA win as the most boring close major championship win in history. He and Chad Campbell battled all day along in a great head-to-head duel, but it was just mind-numbingly dull. My reaction when he stiffed his second shot on 18 wasn't "Wow, that was one of the great clutch shots in history," but more like "FINALLY!"
Response: agreed. Total dud.

13. 2005 British Open: Similar to the previous entry, there was no drama about this tournament. Everyone knew Tiger would obliterate St. Andrews again, and nobody ever really came close. His closest rival was Colin Montgomerie, and if you thought poor old snake-bitten Monty would actually overcome Tiger in a major, you're dreaming.
Response: agreed again. They really should stop holding majors at courses where it's blatantly obvious that Tiger will dominate the field. Which means, uh...wait, hold on, every U.S. Open at Oakmont, every PGA at Winged Foot, and all British Opens at Troon.
------>Ugh, I hate Troon. Definitely my least favourite Open course, except for Hoylake.

12. 2002 U.S. Open: The "isn't it great that a public course got the Open" storyline was old by around, oh, Tuesday morning. The course itself didn't seem all that special. It was clear from the length that only about 10 guys would have a chance to win, Tiger being chief among them. The gallery's inexplicably love of Mickelson and the bush-league razzing of Sergio's waggles was pretty weak. All in all, a pretty weak Open.
Response: But you and I, if we drove for ten hours, then camped out in line in our car for another ten hours, could play Bethpage Black. The same course that Tiger once played for six days...six years ago! I don't think you appreciate how truly amazing that is.

Yeah, ok, I agree. I had this slightly higher (#9), but it wasn't particularly memorable.


11. 2000 British Open: I remember David Duval gave Tiger a minor run around the middle of the final round (and by that, I mean cut Tiger's lead down to three or four), but in the end, Woods dominated another major. My defining memory of this championship isn't Tiger-related at all...it's remembering Duval duffing shot after shot in one of St. Andrews' massive bunkers. By this time, Tiger winning by huge margins was beginning to wear just a bit thin, and we were waiting to see him challenged again. Enter Bob May...(but that's for later on the list).
Response: OK, so it was this year that Duval couldn't get out of that bunker. Man, that was agonizing.

10. 2002 Masters: I don't remember a whole lot about this tournament aside from the fact that Tiger entered the final round tied for the lead with, I think, Retief Goosen, and then Tiger made a birdie on about the second or third hole, and it was over. Though Woods didn't really pull away and dominate, and only ended up winning by three shots, it was the widest three-shot lead you'll ever see since NOBODY made a move. It was the most glaring example I can think of 'the Tiger effect,' when Woods' biggest strength seems to be plays steady while his rivals all shit the bed on Sunday. A quick look at the rest of the top eight at the 02 Masters...Goosen, Phil, Olazabal, Harrington, Els, Vijay, Sergio. So it's not like Tiger was playing away from the junior varsity team here. In a way, the fact that so many big names were gathered around the lead was pretty compelling, but it doesn't do much for the tension when you just know in your heart of
hearts that none of them were going to step up.
Response: this phenomenon drives me crazy. News flash to every golfer ever: Tiger will never hand you a major (or any tournament for that matter). That means you'll actually need to, you know, make a move, including--and I know this is anathema in major championship golf--taking dead aim at some pins. Trust me, 18 pars will not get it done.
-----------> Agreed. Does the money and finishing position really matter so much to these guys? Maybe if it was a guy fighting for his card or an exemption into the next year's major, but if you're Ernie, Vijay, or even the supposedly fearless Phil, why the fuck wouldn't you just go all out, and if it doesn't work, shrug your shoulders and try again next time?

9. 2007 PGA Championship: I thought he was going to lose. For some reason, though Tiger had his usual Sunday lead, he looked a bit shakier than usual and I thought this would finally be the time when he broke down and let one slip away. Maybe it was because Tiger looked human during second-place finishes at both the US Open and Masters earlier in the season. But, in the end, Tiger outpaced Southern Hills (a course I thought he'd struggle at) and got the win. Crazy ol' Woody Austin actually played very well in contention and finished only two shots back.
Response: This is my problem: I never think he's going to lose. On the plus side, I can make money doing this. On Sunday, I bet Taylor $0.25 that Tiger would win, and I'd pay him a $1 if he lost. Best of both worlds: I root against him winning (and will gladly pay a $1 if this happens) but collect when he does. (Question: would the preceding story have been more interesting if it involved more than a quarter?)
---------------> This is like that old Cheers episode when Sam and Robin made a $1 bet on a game of pool, with the logic being that the money didn't matter, but the dollar bill was symbolic of victory over the other. Good actor, Roger Rees. It's odd that aside from his guest spots on West Wing, he didn't do a whole lot in the 20 years since his Cheers days. I bet you didn't think that Roger Rees would be worked into this article somehow, but so it goes.
One last week: love the Cheers reference! My favorite Robin Colcord episode was when he was part of a prison work-release program outside of Cheers and Sam kept playing "I Fought the Law" on his boombox (boombox? Really??) and laughing hysterically. For some reason, any time Danson lost in on the show, I was in stitches.

8. 2001 Masters: It wins points for the unparalleled history of Tiger winning his fourth straight major title, but other than that, it actually wasn't an overly remarkable tournament. David Duval made things interesting again, but never really truly had a moment where you thought, "Man, Duval is taking this." What a strange case. Duval won the British Open a few months after this, and then proceeded to basically completely fall apart. It's one thing if a guy like Shaun Micheel does it after winning a major, but Duval was ranked #1 in the world. As OMC would sing, how bizarre.
Response: I remember this one as "the one that everyone desperately wanted Mickelson to win." The look on Phil's face on 18, when he knew he was out of it, was the very definition of deflated.
------------------> Everyone except me. I think I've blogged before about how both me and my extended family all dislike Phil Mickelson. I was happy when he won the 2004 Masters just to get his one major, but after that, he can shove it. I'll never forget watching his 06 Open collapse at a Father's Day BBQ, with even my 87-year-old grandmother chirping him.

In short, hens love roosters, bellies love tickle fun, everyone else loves Phil Mickelson!
Mark: Not me!
Everyone who counts loves Phil Mickelson!

7. 2006 British Open: Tiger has yet to have a truly classic British Open victory, but this comes the closest. I didn't see much of the weekend action since I was covering the Blue Jays on Saturday and Sunday, but I did sneak into the press box's dining area a few times between innings to check on what was going on. Again, the story here was a lot of guys falling by the wayside except for (grrr....) Chris DiMarco, who kept close to Woods and only ended up losing by two. There were a lot of question marks about Tiger coming into this tournament -- his father had recently passed away and he was coming off his first missed cut in a major, where Tiger openly admitted he wasn't mentally ready to deal with the U.S. Open coming so closely on the heels of his father's death. The win here indicated that things would be business as usual. The tournament loses a few extra points due to the farmer's field known as Royal Liverpool. Talk about an
uninteresting venue. The R&A are putting into the rota due to why exactly? Did Paul McCartney throw around some money?
Response: yeah...I think there's probably a reason that Royal Liverpool (aka Hoylake) didn't host the tournament for thirty-nine years. Tiger's sytematic dismantling of the course will probably keep it out of rotation for another thirty-nine years (I can only find info through 2012 and it's not mentioned). If, on the off chance they put it back in the rota, I think that Tiger should do something really insulting, like win it (Tin Cup-style) with only his seven-iron and then throw the trophy to the ground with disgust (while shouting "we could've played this at St. Andrews!") upon winning. That would have to be the nail in the coffin.
--------------------->The R&A only assigns majors five years in advance, unlike the PGA and USGA. Since it's the same nine courses that always host the Open anyway, they don't need a ton of prep time, unlike a course like Torrey Pines. Fun fact: Royal St. George's and Lytham are set to host the Open in 2011 and 2012, which marks the first time EVER (!) that the Open has been played on English courses in back-to-back years. I found this statistically entertaining.

6. 2005 Masters: Everyone remembers the unbelievable chip shot Tiger made at the 16th, which will be included in every Tiger Woods highlight package from here until the end of time. But let's not forget, Tiger bogeyed 17 and 18 in order to open the door for Chris DiMarco to get into a playoff. If DiMarco had pulled it off, we'd be listing this tournament as #1 on the much shorter list of Tiger's Most Compelling Chokes in a major. Even worse, then we would've had to listen to more verbal blowjobs from golf announcers about Chris DiMarco, who for my money is the most consistently overrated golfer of the last decade (narrowly edging Charles Howell III). DiMarco is the PGA's answer to David Eckstein, i.e. a player who is given more credit than he deserves because he's 'gritty' or some such horseshit. DiMarco has won three tournaments! None since 2002! Yeah, we get it, he likes the Florida Gators, come on, people! The only thing interesting about the Gators is Tim Tebow's taste in women.
Response: Interesting take on DiMarco. (I'm guessing you won't be tuning into his--I swear I'm not making this up--weekly XM radio show, then.) My follow up was going to be "yeah, but he plays big in majors." Except, no, he doesn't. (Only 6 top tens in 31 tries--only three of which were top 5s--and, since his near-win in '05, he's, amazingly, missed the cut in six of his subsequent 11 major appearances). Also, his three wins aren't exactly impressive (the 2000 SEI Pennsylvania Classic??). Does Chris DiMarco secretly suck? I'm really going to have to re-think this.

Also, I agree that we, as viewers, hear far too much about the college allegiances of the players on tour. My theory is that anytime the announcers feel the urge to talk about golfer politics (which would lead many to discover that 95% of tour players are hardcore Republicans, like "balking at the opportunity to meet President Clinton after the Ryder Cup heroics/boorishness at Brookline in '99" hardcore) they substitute an NCAA story, which is far more palatable for the average fan.
----------------------------> I dunno, I think a lot of fans might hate a guy based on his college affiliation moreso than his political leanings. An Alabaman might forgive a guy who's a Democrat, but a rooter of another SEC school? Heresy. I think I read once in SI that the only open Democrats on tour were Billy Andrade and (somewhat oddly, in my view) David Duval. Yes We Can!

5. 1999 PGA Championship: This is at least three places lower than most would place it on a list, but it gets a lower ranking in my book since I missed the entire final round. My pal Eric got tickets to a Blue Jays game, which at that point in my life was a much more rare event than it is today. After a rousing afternoon of watching the Jays lose to Oakland, we drove back to London to hear all about this unbelievable tournament that Tiger had won. The duel with Sergio, Sergio's crazy shot from behind the tree, Tiger nearly collapsing on his putter after sinking the final putt...I heard about it all second-hand. Still, it was a pretty awesome major to watch prior to Sunday, but for reasons unrelated to Tiger. Ol' Mike Weir was making his first charge in a major tournament, and actually entered the final round tied with Woods for the lead. Of course, Mike then shot an 80. Eight. Zero. Thus beginning Mike's proud tradition of Sunday catastrophes. In fact, Kyle and I shared the memory of Mike's legendary choke at the 04 Canadian Open. I was over at Kyle's place watching football/playing cards, and we flipped over to the Open to watch Weir miss, approximately, 786 putts that would've won him the title. Weir didn't win another tournament for over three years, unsurprisingly.
Response: can you believe Weir's won eight times on tour? I saw this about a month ago and I was flabbergasted. I would've guessed four. (Notice how I'm totally ignoring the Canadian Open anecdote? Not a coincidence.) I have actually have two big issues with Sergio's tree shot. First, CBS, stupidly, apparently trained all their cameras on Garcia. As a result, you will never see footage of the ball actually landing on the green (only the last few rolls are captured on film). Second, I could swear that he missed the putt. Why does no one ever mention this? He could've easily chipped out laterally and gotten up and down for the same score! Is this most exciting par in golf history? I suppose. Also, he spat in the cup and, when called on it, acted like a total dick. Wait, that was years later. Still...gross.
--------->Let's see, he won the Vancouver Open, the WGC event in Spain, the TOUR Championship, the Masters, the two LA Opens and that fall event last year after the President's Cup. I'm missing one....hmm, this might require a trip to Wikipedia. My brother has long hated Sergio, so I have to of course semi-root for him due to sibling rivalry. But it's hard when Sergio acts like a six-year-old. Doesn't the PGA Tour have an enforcer? Couldn't Mark Calcavecchia and Bart Bryant kick his ass in the locker room after a round or something?
Follow up: he won the Hope in '03 (finishing at 30-under over five rounds), which is strange because, as my dad likes to point out, Weir is rarely competitive in tournaments where the scores are really low, but has 9 top tens in the last six years in majors.

4. 1997 Masters: I remember reading an article about this Masters where the writer described it as, paraphrasing, the first tournament ever where when the wife asked you to go out and cut the lawn, you said you had to stay and see if the guy would win by 10 or by 11. As it happened, Tiger won by 12. I mean...holy crap. There were still some people wondering if this Woods kid was the real deal, and this win didn't just underline him as for real, but as a special talent. Stunningly, he didn't win another major for another two-and-a-half years, which seems inconceivable for Tiger today.
Response: agreed. If it didn't sound totally gay, I'd claim this was a magical week. Is not mind-blowing that, in the 11 times he's played Augusta since '97, he's only won it three times? Would you not have bet hundreds of dollars in '97 that he'd have 7 or 8 Masters to his name by now? Isn't insane that four wins here seems like an underachievement? Talk about setting the bar high.

3. 2000 U.S. Open: What's even more impressive than winning the Masters by twelve? Winning the U.S. Open by fifteen. This is absurd even writing it eight years later. He won the United freakin' States goddamn Open by FIFTEEN SHOTS. These are U.S. Opens --- you're supposed to barely survive them, and if you break par, it's a minor miracle. To put it in perspective, the previous three Opens at Pebble Beach were won by a cumulative score of seven under par. Tiger was twelve under par in 2000. It was a blowout of epic proportions, and the fact that it happened at arguably the best course in America just made it all the more fascinating to watch.
Response: gah. I disagree completely. I had this dead last. (This is supposed to be a "most compelling" list, Shuk!) I watched every stroke of it, but, Christ, was it boring. If I'm not mistaken, Tiger actually took a double or a triple bogey on Saturday morning (I recall his ball being wedged beneath the lip of a greenside bunker--can you confirm this?), so, really, he should've won by seventeen or eighteen. Also, put me in the "I think Pebble is just a bit overrated" camp. I'd rather see Pinehurst or Olympic (i.e. courses that don't already host a tournament during the year) in the mix more often.
--------------------------> Fair enough, though the AT&T Pebble Beach tournament is only a genuine 'Pebble Beach' experience on Sunday. The other three rounds are diluted by the other two courses, and the interminable celebrity play. This tournament has been a snore whenever Bill Murray isn't playing.

2. 2008 U.S. Open: An unbelievable duel with universally beloved underdog Rocco Mediate, who perhaps had the best attitude possible going into the playoff. As Rocco stated several times in interviews, he was literally just happy to be there, competing with the best in the world for a major title. You might say that his lack of killer instinct might have cost him the title, but then again, he just went out there and threw all caution to the wind. Someone like an Els, or a Mickelson, or a Sergio might (or, let's face it, would) have overthought and choked all over themselves. As it happened, Rocco ended up coming the closest as anyone has ever come to knocking Tiger off when he's had the 54-hole lead. It was made all the more interesting by Lee Westwood's involvement on Sunday (quick note: my family used to have major golf pools, and my dad almost always took Lee Westwood, which to this say, causes us to say 'Hey Dad, your boy is in contention' if Westwood is close), and Tiger's knee injury added a Jordan-with-the-flu aspect to the whole week. Now that we know Woods can win on a bad wheel, this eliminates Phil Mickelson's plan B, codenamed "The Kerrigan Initiative." I kind of wonder how serious this injury actually is, if Tiger is saying that he'll be taking a lot of time off. Could he, like, miss the British Open or something? If so, then we'll know just how serious this injury is, which might actually elevate this tournament even more in history. What ultimately puts this major second on the list is the fact that even with the bad knee, Tiger was the massive, massive favourite coming into the week. He owns Torrey Pines. If he were an internet gamer, he would pwn it.
Response: I had this at #2 as well. A riveting weekend. A few comments:
1. Now seems like as good a time as any for me to say that I've thought Jordan's flu game was a bunch of bullshit. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure he had the flu, but it's actually impossible for someone to play that well during the game and then barely be able to stand during timeouts. He was totally milking it. And for anyone that says that adrenaline carried him for 48 minutes, I will offer this: no NBA game has ever been compelling for 48 straight minutes. In other words, adrenaline may well carry you through the first three (and last two) minutes of each quarter, but that's it.
2. Let the record show that, if you had an interest in anyone aside from Tiger, NBC's coverage was absolutely terrible this weekend. Not only did they refuse to show the second page of the leaderboard, but, if I'm not mistaken, they didn't run their ticker at the bottom of the screen once on Sunday (which sent me scurrying to the computer to find out how Weir was doing). As a rule, my dad doesn't need much of an excuse to lash out at Johnny Miller, so, let me tell you, he had hate in his eyes Sunday afternoon. This even applied to Tiger's playing partner, the absolutely forgotten even though he missed the playoff by roughly six inches Lee Westwood, whom Hicks and Miller apparently solemnly vowed never to discuss. I'm half convinced that, had Westwood made his putt on 18, the USGA and NBC would've trumped up some sort of incorrectly signed scorecard penalty, in an effort to keep everyone's attention on Woods.
3. I won't say that Tiger got lucky, but, my word, if Rocco birdies 18 (the easiest hole on the course) just once on Sunday or Monday, he wins it.
----------------------> 1. Hmm, so you're saying it was just psychological gamesmanship from Jordan? Interesting. Not that I would put it past him, but did he really need to try such tactics on Karl Malone, who as I recall played that whole series with both hands wrapped around his neck? (No idea why he did it. Again, I'm sure he was a bit sick, but maybe decided to play it up a bit to have one more signature moment?)
2. 100 percent agreement. NBC's ultimate goal would be to have a six-hour golf telecast without ever actually showing any golf. (Kyle: LOL) They started coverage on Saturday at 4 PM with the leaders not seeing off until 6 PM, and in those two hours I think they showed roughly a dozen shots. It was pathetic. Does NBC simply not have as many cameras as the other networks? It's been even more terrible the previous two years, when a number of guys were in contention and got barely any face time on Sunday. I don't think we saw Angel Cabrera last year before the trophy ceremony. Also, did Johnny Miller think Rocco Mediate had never played golf before? I mean, he was an underdog, sure, but he had been on Tour for years and had a few wins under his belt. To hear Miller talk, you'd think Rocco only got into the tournament by winning The Big Break. (Kyle: I love that show. I was actually just thinking yesterday how funny it would be if the winner got an exemption into, like, the PGA Championship...just to see him shoot 90-95 and miss the cut by forty.)

1. 2000 PGA Championship: The ultimate in David vs. Goliath. Say what you will about Rocco Mediate, but he has some Tour wins to his name. Bob May was a nobody from nowhere with nobody, and he went toe-to-toe with Woods in one of the most unbelievable displays of clutch golf you'll ever see. The 18th hole alone featured two phenomenally good pressure putts from both men -- first May, then Tiger to force a playoff. Remember, this was really out of nowhere. Tiger had won the previous two majors by a total of 23 (!) strokes. Pundits were wondering if anyone would step up and become a rival to Tiger (they're still wondering, eight years later) and it ended up being a no-name journeyman. We knew Tiger could perform in pressure situations from the previous year's PGA, but this was his first head-to-head duel, and he passed with flying colours. It is somehow fitting that May never won anything after the PGA --- he was a true underdog. I think
he might've been my waiter at lunch last week.
Response: agree completely. This was awesome. I was thinking about it last night, and while the '99 Open remains my absolutely favorite major (I will never, ever forget where I was, how I felt, and every single stroke of Van de Velde's meltdown), this is a very close second.

As always, Shuk: a pleasure. Also, in the future, can we call these team-ups? (Please?)
---------------------------> Man, I missed Van de Velde's meltdown too! I was up with my parents at some podunk cottage up north (if you ask my parents about this, they may have suppressed the memory), and our only connection to the outside world was a radio. So we heard the jaw-dropping analysis of Van de Velde's disastrous last hole on the Fan 590, which made it somehow even closer to myth.

Ooh ooh, team-ups! Great idea! Like the old Marvel Team-Up comics. The only question is, which one of us is Spider-Man? (I just looked up that old title on Wikipedia, and it turns out, my memory of Spidey being in virtually every issue was correct. In one issue, Spider-Man teamed up with...the cast of Saturday Night Live. I think I would pay $100 for that comic.)

4 comments:

Mark P said...

And, as a capper to our collaboration, here's a great Tiger article from the great Joe Posnanski

http://joeposnanski.com/JoeBlog/2008/06/16/the-meaning-of-tiger/

Ryan Ward said...

I missed a fair share of these tournaments, but I will never forget the excitement of the 1997 Masters. It was the first time I had ever seen Tiger play, and golf has never been the same since.

This weekend was pretty special, and I was glad to see it so high on your lists.

RT Murphy said...

Way to copy and paste directly from Shuk, unless you actually did an article with another Kyle so eerily close to his that it makes no difference to the reader.

The R.O.B. said...

Kyle, after reading this, I gotta make the same comment about Tiger that I made at dinner a couple of weeks ago about Federer. And admittedly, I think Tiger competes and has toughed out a few more wins than Federer - but I think there's something about him (maybe a lack of humanity - not in a Buffyverse soul sucking way) that makes him really uninteresting as an athlete. This is not to say that I'm a Phil 'Everyman' Mickelson fan, because I think Phil is a fat turd.

Anyways, something about this list made me like Tiger a whole lot less... do you have any thoughts on what makes Tiger/Fed not be able to come from behind?