Interesting that this letter from Missouri reader Hallie Gibbs was sent to us on Friday, in response to David Owen's column about Tiger in the May issue of Golf Digest, just at the point that most of us expected the usual Tiger charge to be gathering for a fifth Masters victory.
Owen writes of Tiger's dominance:
The real explanation, I think, is that Tiger's rivals try even harder when Tiger is playing well and end up focusing on him instead of staying out of their own way. When all those other guys finally, truly give up -- that's when Tiger will have to watch his back.
David Owen doesn't give Tiger enough credit. It's not a chokefest out there. Tiger is that much better! Even when he isn't playing, nobody in the "Tigerless" tournaments grinds and makes putts like he does. It's one thing to say that Tiger is intimidating. But it's another to acknowledge that he is just that much better!
You're right, of course, until he isn't for a day or a tournament and this past Sunday happens. Tiger's not perfect. The lack of roars down the stretch this week weren't due, in my opinion, to the "new" Augusta National. They were due to Tiger Woods not making putts. (I'll bet that's his assessment, too). He had plenty of opportunity. He missed putts at 13, 14, 15 and 16. Had he made the short putts at 13 and 16, and two-putted 14, pines would have fallen the roars would have been so loud. His putt on 11 and his approach to 13 seemed to set it all up. And then golf as we know it, not magical Tiger Woods golf, happened.
We remember the roars that Jack created at Augusta but tend to forget the times the roars did not materialize, the putts didn't fall and Jack was runner-up. He finished second four times in the Masters--in 1964, 1971, 1977 and 1981--more than anyone except Ben Hogan and Tom Weiskopf, who also had four. Jack came in first or second in ten Masters tournaments: six wins, four seconds. Tiger, I suspect, will equal both those marks before he's through.
To quote Owen again: "Even if Tiger retired tomorrow, he'd have my vote as the best player ever."