This book looks at this arc of 10 great golfers who set out on journeys that changed the game. In each chapter, Walt is joined by experts, experts in the business of golf and game storytellers. A look at Tiger’s rise from obscurity to potential greatness, Jack’s career and popularity, Arnold’s courage in those difficult days when he took on the game’s powers-that-be, the quest for greatness among the greats of the past, Byron’s ascent to golf legend, the inspirational rise of Natalie Gulbis, the burgeoning ranks of what was then the WGC-Sugar Bowl, and so much more. Enjoy golfing in Sicily!
by Neil Hanley Housner
In this season of the game, we all know what’s coming. All of you know the numbers and figures. Of the players who make the global stage regularly, of course you’ve heard of Tiger Woods. By the time of the Masters in April, nobody will believe anything Tiger tells them anymore.
He didn’t just live up to those expectations. He took them to another level.
Woods showed no weaknesses. He played the game with precision and poise and if some lines he was playing off the tee didn’t always look great in a cut-and-paste library, it didn’t matter. Woods had a plan and it was working. His equipment, technology and the newest outlook on strategy created a new template.
Woods hit ground-shaking shots. He walked circles around his opponents. He wowed crowds with his skill. What was he doing so well? Everything.
What Woods did that day at Augusta National was something quite new. He showed the entire world how good he really is. In the past, he’s exhibited just about every phase of the game perfectly. He’s won the green jacket without ever a misstep. He’s the best ever to hold the Tiger-Woods mystique, won his first five Masters without ever facing a tournament-winning stretch. A tournament-winning stretch!
There have been players who played well and fallen short. But never, ever has a player before Woods played under those circumstances.
In any era, playing well in a major championship, particularly the Masters and U.S. Open, is quite the accomplishment. Simply having the talent to win is enough, but Woods demonstrated this year that he had the capacity to lift himself to greatness.
There will be days, I’m sure, when he takes his next step closer and then stumbles. I know there is talk of a celebrity leg break or a brain injury or some other singular golfing event that will knock him off the top. And I know there are some who will be astonished at what he did this year. But the day he does falter, again and again, all it will be is a day in history. Like John F. Kennedy, Phil Mickelson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, Woods changed the face of golf. No one has ever done this with such polish, in such spectacular fashion.
The lessons that came from watching Woods this year are life lessons. There are lessons in winning. Lessons in learning to cope with criticism and criticism is not favorable. There are lessons in working with executives and agents and media, and there are lessons in much broader matters like life, work and relationships.
Whether on the golf course or simply learning from Jack and Jack’s father, everyone with a voice in the game can learn something from Tiger Woods. Of course, not everyone will respond to a lesson taught this way. The proof will be in the pudding. One year, he can be bad, another year, he can be good.
For a change, the only question is whether he can repeat.
Neil Hanley Housner is the senior editor of Golf Digest. His Masters diary will run before the event. The cover is out.