Monday, March 30, 2009

When Tiger roars we are lucky just to be within earshot

March 30, 2009
Posted by Noah

Monday is reserved for coins, I know, but I felt compelled to write something after watching Tiger Woods come roaring back to dominance in yesterday’s conclusion to Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Invitational. If you are not a golf fan, and don’t watch the guy, then I really do pity you. He is, simply put, the greatest to ever pick up the sticks, and certainly the most dominant athlete on the planet at the moment. Greatness personified, no matter how you slice it, is named Tiger Woods and we are all fortunate to be living in the time of his glory.

I went through the Heritage archives to dig up some of the Woods memorabilia that has sold here in past auction, and it’s an impressive list. There are some things that rightly went for a bundle and some things that were picked up for a song that are worth more and more with every passing year and every passing victory. The top lot is a tourney worn, and signed, Nike cap from around 2004, sweat-stained and all, pictured above. It brought more than $9,000 last October, which looks like a bargain now.

While I am a hacker by any account, I do love playing the game. More than that, however, I love to watch it. I’ve watched it since I was a kid, when I was obsessed with Greg Norman and my brother worked at Preston Trails Golf Club, where the Byron Nelson was played for years, and where I got to go and watch The Shark play in person. It’s a game of sheer poetry when played at its highest level, and sheer travesty when played at its lowest – meaning mine – level. It’s exquisite tension, soaring drama and unbelievable pathos when the very best slug it out for top honors at the most difficult courses, and time and time again Mr. Woods has shown that he has no equal in any time period. Before he is done, mark my words and the words of thousands of others, the history books will be completely rewritten in his exact image.

I wanted to enlist the help of one of our resident experts to legitimize my meager standing, so I called Mark Jordan, one of our Consignment Directors in Sports, the go-to golf guy, and a man who has forgotten more about sports history than I could assemble in any five lifetimes. His thoughts on Woods and Bay Hill:

“(This Bay Hill victory) just shows how determined and focused Woods can be when playing golf,” he said. “Any mortal who is five strokes behind on a Sunday, it’s hard to come out and win. Tiger had to reach down and deep and see if he could pull it out, which he did, and the look on his face when he won shows the guy knew that it was really special that he accomplished that.”

Agreed. Tiger is a man who plays his personal feelings very close to the vest, and people respect that, I believe, because he is so giving of his fire and focus when he is on the course. He is the greatest ever, no one can doubt it, but he still manages to make us root for him like he’s the underdog. The only thing Tiger Woods is an underdog to is history, and that won’t be for too much longer.

“You know, he limps around at Oakmont and wins the U.S. Open (June 2008) on one leg,” Mark continued, “then he has surgery, comes back eight months later and wins Bay Hill, which is (Arnold) Palmer’s tournament to boot. With The Master’s coming up this really gets him in a frame of mind to do well there.”

To the rest of the PGA Tour, who might have hoped for a little respite from Tiger’s dominance as he slowly rehabbed his way back, they all just took a collective punch in the gut – along with a spike in TV ratings and the return of the big prizes as long as Woods is in the field.

I could go on ad infinitum about the man’s greatness as a golfer. Time will tell if he shapes up to be a great man off the course, but that is unimportant right now. All that matters now is that he is back in the game, as great as he ever was, and we should all be grateful to get to fan ourselves from the bright white heat the star of his greatness gives off.

Here’s that archive once again, and a hearty welcome back to Mr. Woods from the world of mortals…