Obsessive Tiger Woods Hype: I watched the replay of the 1978 British Open last night. Jack Nicklaus was in the process of winning his fifteenth major when the announcers had this conversation (paraphrased):
McKay: Bobby Jones and Jack Nicklaus, the best two players in golf history.
Other Guy: Well, now, saying that is going to cause a fight. A lot of people say Hogan.
McKay: Well, let’s just say Jack is one of the top five.
Note the respect for past players. Jack had fifteen majors and they settled on “one of the top five.” Think about it: Jack had four more majors than his nearest competitor, and they agreed on top five. (One can only laugh at the thought of today’s announcers broadcasting a Woods win putting him four ahead of Jack.)
Contrast to the hype surrounding Tiger Woods his entire career. The media started with the Greatest Of All Time hype when Woods had half-a-dozen majors. I don’t need to rehash the past fifteen years; you know how hysterical the golf media was.
So, here’s my point. When reasonable voices expressed the sentiment that enough was enough, that the golf media needed to stop covering a 10-shots-back Woods as if he were the leader, the response was often: “That’s natural. When Jack was playing, he was covered the same way.”
I certainly didn’t remember it that way. No one claimed, after a timely chip-in or precise approach shot, that Jack “hit shots no one else could.” Jack was the best player of his day, but there was no obsession, no deification. He was the focus of attention only when he was in contention.
Well, the 1978 British Open replay put the lie to the theory that Jack was obsessed over the way Woods has been. He wasn’t, and last night proved it. Winning his fifteenth major, the announcers managed only a gentlemanly “one of the top five.”
Yeah, that’s exactly how Woods would have been covered had he won four more than Jack. Right?
Oberholser with a Dose of Reality: Arron Oberholser said on Golf Central that the biggest difference between Woods now and when he was playing well two years ago is… <drumroll> …back surgery. Wow, I thought Golf Channel was under orders to blame it on a minor flaw in his swing (that Butch Harmon could fix in ten minutes).