Tiger Woods recorded his 70th PGA Tour win today at the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone.
It may be that we have come to expect the unimaginable to be the norm for this incredible athlete, but make no mistake, what he is accomplishing is epic.
There are sports records that defy reality. Ones that are so “out-there” that we cannot imagine them ever been broken. Among them are:
1. UCLA basketball coach John Wooden’s 10 basketball titles
2. Cy Young’s 511 wins in baseball
3. Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 career record in boxing
4. Carl Lewis winning nine Olympic gold medals in Track and Field
5. Wayne Gretzky’s 2,857 career points in hockey
6. Sam Snead’s 82 career PGA Tour victories
No. 6—Snead’s 82 victories are indeed extraordinary. Detractors will point out that Snead did this in an era where there was not nearly the depth of good players that are today; true.
The flip side of that argument, however, is that Snead did this in an era when he competed against more, "great" players. They included Gene Sarazen, Walter Hagen, Jimmy Demaret, Lloyd Mangrum, Cary Middlecoff, Ben Hogan, and Byron Nelson.
On today’s PGA Tour, any player good enough to be there is capable of winning. If a player has a “great” career (and would most probably be elected into the World Golf Hall of Fame), he wins 15 tournaments.
15 wins are what Tiger has averaged, for every three years, of his to-date, 14 year career.
At the beginning of the day at Firestone, Tiger trailed over-night leader, Padraig Harrington, by three shots. Woods was phenomenal, shooting 30 on the front nine and appeared to be on cruise-control until making very un-Tiger like bogeys on the 13th and 14th holes. Those bogeys combined with a Harrington birdie gave the indomitable Irishman the lead by himself as he stood on the 16th tee.
The 16th hole at Firestone is one of the hardest par-5’s in all of golf. At 667 yards, it is a monster in length but that does not tell all the story. It has two doglegs so you need to shape two different shots to navigate safely, but the real difficulty is the green.
Guarded by a lake in front and bunkers and deep rough in the back, the green is like hardened concrete. More than half the players in the field (hitting sand-wedges) could not get their ball to stop on the green
After two wayward drives, both Harrington and Woods had to lay up on their second shots. It was at this moment that Tiger played one of “those shots” (the ones that only he can). Faced with 182 yards, a pin that was only nine feet onto the green and a significant left to right wind, Tiger hit an eight iron (yes, an iron) landed 13 feet past the hole and spun back (nobody had done that all day) to within 10 inches of the cup.
Harrington’s third shot did what most players had done all day and went over the green. Playing an immensely difficult "flop-shot" out of the rough, Padraig’s fourth shot went sailing over the green, into the water, and he went on to make a painful, triple-bogey eight. Game over.
Tiger Woods is not only going to break Snead’s record of 82 wins, he is going to shatter it. He will undoubtedly also break the other golf record that everyone says “could never be broken”, like Jack Nicklaus’ 18 Major Championships (Tiger has 14 so far).
When it is all said and done, Mr. Woods may have the one record in all of sports that will never be broken. We will watch history being written.