Tiger Woods: The Irony Of Tiger Inspiring a Generation

Will Leivenberg@@will_leivenbergFeatured ColumnistAugust 24, 2010

Tiger Woods: The Irony Of Tiger Inspiring a Generation

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    KOHLER, WI - AUGUST 15:  Tiger Woods plays his approach shot on the eighth hole during the final round of the 92nd PGA Championship on the Straits Course at Whistling Straits on August 15, 2010 in Kohler, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
    Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

    Nothing ever seemed out of the question for Tiger Woods on the golf course.

    It didn't matter if he was behind a colossal tree with swirling winds in his face, putting down a two-tiered labyrinth of a green or hitting into a tiny green surrounded by hazards, a pond, and multiple sand traps, T.W. had any and every shot in his bag.

    But the 2010 season has unveiled a Tiger Woods no one was prepared to watch; one that was weak both mentally and physically. He's neither overpowered 7500-yard golf courses nor routed fields featuring the most gifted golfers in the world. But as he's displayed his less than stellar skills on the course, a myriad of talented, vigorous youth have exploded onto the golf scene.

    But isn't it ironic that the 20-something's currently overshadowing Tiger Woods grew up idolizing him?

    Woods was once known for his unbelievable length off the tee, but now we are captivated by Dustin Johnson's overwhelming distance.

    Tiger used to thrill crowds with sky-high wedge shots that spun back and sat within five feet of the cup, but now guys like Jeff Overton and Rickie Fowler are stunning the galleries.

    T.W. was the master at reading the speed and break of the most difficult of putting greens, but now Bubba Watson and Hunter Mahan are draining putts with ease.

    Just think about it, Tiger has been on Tour for more than a decade, essentially abolishing records and setting new standards all the while. Now all of a sudden the young kids who watched him destroy fields at the Masters and Pebble are not only competition, but are showing him up, most notably 21-year-old Rory McIlroy.

    No one may ever reproduce the intimidation factor Tiger once had, but there's no doubt that this multitude of young guns are playing their best golf due to Tiger's awe-inspiring influence.

Holding Nothing Back: Dustin Johnson

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    Whether he's been eating double the servings of Wheaties or he's just a freak of nature, the 25-year-old holds nothing back and simply punishes the ball off the tee, averaging 307-yards off the tee (ranked No.3 on Tour).

    Though golf has always maintained that thrilling element of hitting the ball as hard you can, most professionals avoid that childhood notion because, well, without the proper mechanics a myriad of problems can unfold.

    But then in the late 1990s, a young and athletic Tiger Woods began his professional career and started a revolution based solely around 'going for it.'  Woods used to hit the ball so far and off line that he would often avoid whatever trouble was in his way. Going for greens in two became common and the phrase "risk-reward" was probably his daily mantra. Accenture loved his aggressive golf course demeanor and after signing him banked on the fresh, enticing slogan, "Go on, be a Tiger." 

    His enormous length was a combination of outstanding mechanics, timing, visualization, and fitness.

    While Woods can still put a beating on the ball, guys like Bubba Watson, J.B. Holmes and Dustin Johnson are now at the forefront as the long-hitters on Tour.

Knocking It Tight: Rickie Fowler

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    ST ANDREWS, SCOTLAND - JULY 16:  Ricky Fowler of the USA tees off on the 15th hole during the second round of the 139th Open Championship on the Old Course, St Andrews on July 16, 2010 in St Andrews, Scotland.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
    Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

    In his rookie season on Tour, Rickie Fowler, the 21-year-old Oklahoma hot-shot, ranks No.14 in hitting the ball closest to the hole inside of 125-yards.

    There were just a few insignificant names in front of him, such as Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, Mike Weir, Stewart Cink, and Phil Mickelson.

    No big deal right? Wrong.

    Fowler just earned the right to order an alcoholic beverage and yet he's routed the majority of the PGA Tour after recording five top-10 finishes this year, including two 2nd place finishes at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and the Memorial Tournament. He ranks 15th in Greens in Regulation on Tour, which is a testament to his terrific ability to put himself in position off the tee to get aggressive.

    Fowler's incredible touch with his irons isn't the only aspect of his game that reflects Tiger, but it's also his fortitude under pressure. Fowler shot a disastrous 79 in his opening round at the British Open this season only to rebound with a phenomenal round of 67 for one of the best rounds of the second day. He would finish T-14 and add another stellar performance to his already luminous year.

Putting Under Pressure: Hunter Mahan

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    KOHLER, WI - AUGUST 11:  Hunter Mahan putts during a practice round prior to the start of the 92nd PGA Championship on the Straits Course at Whistling Straits on August 11, 2010 in Kohler, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Realistically, how often did Tiger Woods miss a putt he needed to make?

    It wouldn't be outrageous to respond, "Never."

    There was a span of time when Woods epitomized reliability on the greens. He emitted this astute ability to fuse the speed and break of the putting greens. His uncanny grasp of the greens paired with his unrelenting mental game allowed him to produce under pressure on a consistent basis. 

    Tiger dazzled golf fans everywhere because he seemed to especially sink the most difficult putts, which were not always the long benders, but instead those gut-check putts inside six feet.

    Hunter Mahan is one of the few players to earn two victories this season and each are undeniably due to his nearly flawless putting in his third and fourth rounds. In his first victory, Mahan scored identical 65's to close out the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Then most recently at the WGC-Invitational, Mahan closed with 66-64, going on an absolute terror with the flat stick.

    Those kind of scores under that kind of pressure is almost bizarre and Mahan's terrific performances had an uncanny resemblance to those of Tiger Woods.

The Whole Package: Rory McIlroy

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    KOHLER, WI - AUGUST 15:  Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays his tee shot on the ninth hole during the final round of the 92nd PGA Championship on the Straits Course at Whistling Straits on August 15, 2010 in Kohler, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Andrew Reding
    Andrew Redington/Getty Images

    He's not an anomaly, but he's definitely defying the norm.

    21-year-old Northern Irishmen Rory McIlroy has carded five top-10's this season, including two marvelous third place finishes, first at the British Open and then at the PGA Championship. He also won the Wells Fargo Championship and is ranked No.7 in the Official World Rankings.

    Whereas a year ago when Rory was just some hot-shot with potential, he has blossomed into the player the Golf Channel analysts predict to win.

    He has demonstrated Tiger-esque features in every facet of the game. From driving the ball consistently over 300-yards to aggressively attacking well protected pins, Rory has demonstrated his capacity to play with the best in the game today.

    His win at the Wells Fargo Championship was one of the most thrilling events of the season, highlighted by his final round 10-under par 62, tying the course record at Quail Hollow. He then went on to shoot the unimaginable score of 63 at golf's sanctuary, the Old Course at St. Andrews. His opening round tied the major championship low score, but more importantly made a statement that he was here to stay.