Tiger Woods' Reign Is Over: Why He Will Never Surpass Jack Nicklaus
By: Michael Manbert
Just the name evokes imagery the likes of which epitomized golf and the PGA Tour only two years ago.
Nowadays, though, things are different. The perceptions of a generally forgetful public have shifted to a degree nobody could have foreseen. Woods was once regarded as the pinnacle of golf - the protege to Nicklaus, who had led and would continue to lead golf increasingly further into the mainstream sporting world.
Woods' monumental downfall began with a November 25th, 2009 National Enquirer story alleging infidelity on his part with a New York City nightclub manager. Just a day later, the story gained national attention following Tiger's infamous car crash (in which he left his Orlando home at 2:30 A.M in his 2009 Escalade and hit a hedge, fire hydrant and a tree just down the street from his house).
You probably know the rest of the story - it was all downhill from there. Relentless attacks from various media conglomerates and less-reputable organizations alike. Countless allegations of infidelity from both credible and unbelievable sources. In the end, following allegations from over a dozen women, Woods would eventually release a statement on December 11th, 2009 admitting to and apologizing for infidelity, and announcing an indefinite hiatus from professional golf.
However, the then-still-top-ranked Woods would announce a return to the PGA Tour during a March 10th press conference in which he announced his intentions to participate in the 2010 Masters - a tournament in which he would place 4th.
To date, Woods has only surpassed such a placing once.
With such subpar play (by Tiger's standards, anyway) has come questions, criticism and doubt - the latter of which will personify this article.
Tiger Woods' reign has come to an end.
Read on to find out why the PGA's former golden boy will never surpass Jack Nicklaus' record 18 major championships, and why his reign as the most dominant player on the PGA Tour has finally come to an end.
Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day and the New Generation of PGA Talent
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
While the group of rising young stars on the PGA Tour may have golf, youth and newfound riches in common, the comparisons end there. Many of the young-guns taking the PGA Tour by storm are from various locations around the globe, making for a seemingly diverse future for professional golf.
Three of the brightest young stars on the PGA tour are Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and Jason Day.
McIlroy is perhaps the brightest of the aforementioned trio of young guns. At just 22, the youngster from Northern Ireland already has a major under his belt after having won the U.S. Open in dominant fashion on June 19th, 2011 with a record score of 16-under par. Small in stature (at just 5'9 and 160 lbs), McIlroy's potential is enormous - having turned pro at 17, he looks to become one of the highest paid professional athletes in the world in the coming years, largely due to endorsements that he will inevitably receive. McIlroy is currently number four in the world rankings.
After having taken second place at the 2011 Masters Tournament, Jason Day was also the runner-up to Rory McIlroy at the 2011 U.S. Open with a score of eight under par A 23-year-old Australian, Day saw himself climb into the top ten for the first time in his career in June 2011, and is currently the number seven ranked player in the world.
Undoubtedly the flashiest of the three, Rickie Fowler claimed the 2010 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year award in 2010 - controversially receiving the award over Rory McIlroy. Sponsored by Titleist, Puma and Rolex, respectively, Fowler has seen an exponential rise in popularity since turning pro in 2009. After having been chosen as captain's pick for the U.S. Ryder Cup team in 2010, Fowler became the youngest U.S. Ryder Cup player of all time to compete at 20 years and 9 months. Fowler had his best finish as a professional in July of 2011, when he finished fifth at the Open Championship.
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Tiger Woods' knee injuries are no secret to casual golf fans and enthusiasts alike. Let us take a look at a timeline of Woods' injuries, beginning with his most recent slew of misfortunes.
June 7, 2011 - Decides not to play the U.S. Open because his left knee and Achilles is not fully healed. It is the first time he has missed the U.S. Open since 1994, after he graduated high school.
May 12, 2011 - Withdraws after nine holes at The Players Championship after a 42, his worst 9-hole score at the TPC Sawgrass. Woods had a noticeable limp over the final hour. "The knee acted up, and then the Achilles followed after that, and then the calf started cramping up. Everything started getting tight," he said.
April 26, 2011 - Reveals he has a minor sprain of medial collateral ligaments in left knee and minor strain of his left Achilles, and he will miss the Wells Fargo Championship.
Dec. 11, 2010 - Has cortisone shot in his right ankle because of lingering soreness in his Achilles.
May 9, 2010 - Withdraws on the seventh hole of the final round at The Players Championship with what he fears is a bulging disk. He later says it was inflammation of a joint in his neck. He doesn't miss a start, returning a month later at the Memorial.
December 2008 - Ruptures the Achilles' tendon in his right leg.
June 24, 2008 - Eight days after winning the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in a 19-hole playoff, has reconstructive surgery on the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and to repair cartilage damage. He misses the rest of the 2008 season and is out for eight months.
June 2008 - Advised in the weeks before the U.S. Open that he has two stress fractures of the left tibia and should expect to be on crutches three weeks, out of golf for an additional three weeks.
April 15, 2008 - Two days after his runner-up finish at the Masters, has athroscopic surgery on his left knee to repair cartilage damage. Decides against repairing ligament to avoid longer rehabilitation and to play the other three majors. Misses Quail Hollow, The Players Championship and the Memorial.
July 2007 - Ruptures his anterior cruciate ligament in the left knee when he took a misstep while running on a golf course. He wins five of his last six tournaments he plays, including the PGA Championship.
Dec. 12, 2002 - Has surgery to remove fluid inside and around the anterior cruciate ligament. Misses the season-opening Mercedes Championship for the first time, and returns 10 weeks later to win the Buick Invitational.
December 1994 - As a freshman at Stanford, has surgery to remove two benign tumors and scar tissue in his left knee.
Hunter Martin/Getty Images
Tiger's recent divorce and estrangement shocked the sporting world, and made waves throughout the media for months on end.
Since returning from his hiatus from professional golf, Woods hasn't played like himself. Reports from various media organizations have surfaced with statements regarding Woods' personal life, and the general consensus is that his relationships with his children and mother alike have deteriorated, at least to some extent, over the past few years.
Furthermore, Woods recently announced that Steve Williams, his longtime caddy and close friend, would no longer walk the greens with him.
Woods' calm demeanor with the media is doubtlessly a product of rigorous training, as he notably received prior to his March 2010 speech during which he apologized for his "transgressions" in a long-winded, albeit seemingly heartfelt, fashion.
Of all professional sports, golf is far-and-away the most mentally requiring and straining. Is Tiger still in the right mental state to regain the success that made him a worldwide icon?
It certainly doesn't seem so - however, only time will tell.