I’m certainly not much of a sports fan. I hate Football (or Soccer, if you like butchering the English language), can just about tolerate Rugby (or Football, if you hate making sense) and I could watch Snooker (or Billiards, if you insist on having no idea what the difference is) all day. I quite like motor sports; I’ll happily watch the MotoGP, Formula 1 and a bit of Nascar on occasion, sprinkled with the odd intermittent Monster Truck smashing things to pieces. Lovely.
One sport I simply can’t bring myself to watch for extended periods of time, however, is Golf. Granted, every now and then something interesting happens – for example, last year’s Ryder Cup, in which Europe pulled one of the most sensational comebacks in the history of competition, shattering the USA’s ego like a vastly over-priced vase toppling onto cheap laminate flooring which wasn’t there moments earlier. Other than that, though, there’s the occasional interesting shot (Sergio Garcia hitting a shot from the top of a tree, for example) and little else.
However, despite it’s almost constant tediousness to anyone who has never played it, you have to appreciate that anyone who reaches the standard these guys play at is incredibly skilled indeed. My only experience with Golf is the occasional round of Mini-Golf, and I find that difficult enough. Multiply that by roughly one million, and that’s how hard a game of Big-Golf is. Now add that to the fact that in a standard competition, there can be anywhere up to about 200 players competing against each other, and you realise that the top players are pretty much inhuman in their ability.
As with any sport, Golf has its best. You all know his name, even if you’ve never watched, played or even paid attention to the game in any way – Tiger Woods. And I put it to you all that, given the evidence provided in the above paragraph and more, Ol’ Tigger is the finest sportsman alive today, possibly ever.
I understand that is quite a statement for anyone to make. There have been great people from all over the world competing in all sorts of different games and proving to be superior to their fellow players time and time again – you all probably know of Babe Ruth, Valentino Rossi, Michael Schumacher, Lionel Messi, Roger Federer, the list continues. Most of these sports simply cannot be compared. How can anyone suggest that there is a greatest out of all of these?
Firstly, Tiger Woods is almost always a solo player. The only time he plays in a team is in the aforementioned Ryder Cup, which he usually puts up a damn fine performance in. Any other time, however, it’s him vs everyone else. People such as Lionel Messi, Babe Ruth, Johnny Wilkinson and other such team-sports greats, while often spectacular to watch in action, can fall back on their team mates if in need. For this reason, we can safely rule those guys out.
Secondly, if he doesn’t do well he can’t really blame his tools. Sure, not all Golf clubs are the same, but then again neither are all Cricket bats, Snooker cues or Lacrosse… Things. They certainly aren’t as different as mechanical sporting ‘tools’, such as motorbikes and racing cars. In motor sports, each racer represents a team made up of mechanics and engineers who design and create their tools themselves; there are a myriad of set rules defining how these machines should be made, but ultimately some just turn out superior to others. So when Michael Schumacher moved from Beneton to Ferrari, he starting winning everything. Then he moved to Mercedes after returning from retirement, only to never live up to the hype his return created. Similarly, when Valentino Rossi moved from Yamaha to Ducati, he simply could not handle the new machine and has since moved back. So as great as these guys are, they are not the only factors in their success, and as such they can’t be classified as the greatest of everyone, ever.
This leaves other solo, non-reliant sportsmen such as Roger Federer of Tennis, Ronny O’Sullivan, Stephen Hendry or Steve Davis of Snooker (I honestly don’t know who’s the best in that game), Phil Taylor of Darts and, of course, Tiger Woods of Golf. The simple thing which sets Tiger above all others here is simply how much more difficult his game is than the others; you could learn to play Tennis, Snooker and Darts to an at least acceptable standard after maybe a few months or so. Golf can take years, and you only ever have any chance of going professional if you start very early, when you’re more easily malleable. If that isn’t convincing enough, then Tiger Woods is perhaps the only player to hold the number 1 spot in his sport for nearly 300 days over two separate periods, the most recent of which he lost after sensationally admitting infidelity and consequently falling from grace. He landed in the world number 58th spot, the sort of downfall which spells doom for many sportsmen. But not Tiger Woods; he recently snapped back into focus and brought his A-game, and in possibly the only sensational comeback in the history of competition to rival his own country’s defeat at the hand of Europe, he shot back up to the number 1 spot, proving himself to be the one and only true greatest Golfer of all time.
I understand this is very much personal opinion, but if a comparison like this is ever officially made, I’m sure the evidence supplied here should work heavily in Tiger’s favour. Even if you don’t like Golf very much, like myself, talent of that caliber cannot be denied.