I agree with Bomani Jones at ESPN (excerpts below): Tiger Woods is an artist using golf clubs, like Jimi Hendrix used his guitar to make music. Sadly, Jimi didn’t achieve success until he was 23 and he died at age 27, so we only have four years of his work to enjoy.
…I don’t watch golf for sport. I watch golf for Tiger; he transcended sport a long time ago. He’s still not the Gandhi-like figure his dad, Earl Woods, thought he would become. Yet it doesn’t even feel right to compare him to towering athletic greats like Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky. Instead, he’s an artist nonpareil.
The most comparable figure to Woods is Jimi Hendrix. Like Jimi on the guitar, Tiger has an instinctive feel for the game that makes him a virtuoso, one who makes everything look easy. Add to that the power and intensity that gives his game its unmistakable soul and personality, and it’s easy to see he’s the Jimi of the 21st century — he’s better at what he does than anyone else on Earth.
(If you don’t know Jimi’s music, check out this link: Jimi at Woodstock).
Looking at Tiger as an artist makes it OK for me to watch golf only if Tiger is playing. Rooting for him isn’t like rooting for the house in blackjack. It’s rooting for Hendrix or The Beatles in ’68, Stevie Wonder in ’78, Prince in ’85 or OutKast today.
It’s not cheering for "the genius." It’s cheering for "genius." It’s hoping for continued greatness — wanting to be treated to another classic, to be blown away by his ability to meet expectations that would seem unrealistic if they had not been met so many times before, and to see it done in a new way.
Tiger had that chance on Sunday. He had never come from behind on Sunday at Augusta. His final rounds at the Masters have been more about coronation than competition. But this one could have been different. And when he led after two holes, it seemed like another classic was on its way.
But it wasn’t.
His first 12 holes were uneventful, if not boring. Breaking his 4-iron on the 10th made for an interesting replay, but that was about it. Tiger didn’t play badly. He didn’t play well. He just played.
It wasn’t until the 13th that things got good. Woods trailed Johnson by three strokes, and he needed an eagle on 13 to have a realistic chance to win. His approach shot had to get near the cup, or Tiger’s tournament essentially would have been over. So what did he do? He hit a shot that looked like something from the golf equivalent of H-O-R-S-E — over the creek, past the hole, roll back real slow, three feet from the cup.
Ever bought a CD from your favorite artist, listened to half of it without hearing a single track worth repeating, and then been blown away out of nowhere by one stunning verse or solo? That shot on 13 was that solo, that brilliant moment which gave hope that expectations would be met — that something memorable would happen, that Tiger would blow us away again. That he wouldn’t disappoint.
But disappoint is exactly what he did.
Is that unfair? Of course. Sheesh, Tiger finished second in a major. That’s pretty darn good. But from guys like Tiger, pretty good just doesn’t feel right.