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Tiger Roars

Green Monster

By Keith S. Greenawalt

He's Gonna Be Grrrreat

So, you claim you've had enough of Tiger Woods. Well, I'm here to tell you that it has only just begun.

I admit, the pretentious Nike advertising campaign--"I'm Tiger Woods..."--has already worn thin. I was pretty disturbed when I saw that Tiger was going to be included in the Skins Game--what I call made-for-TV golf--after only four months on tour.

Every tournament now seems to be publicized as if the only player in the field was Tiger Woods. Frankly, I've seen enough footage of Tiger as a seven-year-old playing better golf than I ever will in my lifetime.

But all things shall pass and the Tiger barrage will eventually die down. However, Tiger's barrage upon the golf world will not disappear any time soon.

We have all heard about Tiger dropping a bomb on his sport. He came out of the starting blocks better than Michael Johnson ever has. It was the greatest start to a career in golf history.

Woods won twice in his first seven starts--an unheard of accomplishment. More impressive, however, is the fact that he finished in the top five in four of his first five starts. No player had done that since 1982, let alone a rookie.

Most of us sports-depraved college students got their first look at Tiger over the holiday at the aforementioned Skins Game. He was impressive, but certainly not dominant, finishing with two skins and a measly 40,000 bucks.

Fred Couples and Tom Watson were far more successful. So, has the luster worn off? Is he not the big deal we expected? Are we watching another Todd Marinovich--the boy bred by his father at birth to be the greatest quarterback of all time only to disappear from view after a mediocre career at USC? No.

We, as television watching human beings, have a unique opportunity in front of us. I want to tell you that Tiger Woods is something incredibly special, probably something that only happens in the world of sports once or twice a generation. I don't want you to miss it.

When you think of people who have really revolutionized their sports, certain names come up. Babe Ruth, Wilt Chamberlain, Muhammed Ali, Jackie Robinson, Arnold Palmer, Bob by Orr.... The list goes on, and other people would certainly throw in other names, but that is not important.

When I was growing up, I had the chance to see some of this. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson revitalized the NBA, but I was too young to really understand what was going on. The same thing is true with Wayne Gretsky, Michael Jordan, Dan Marino, and Jerry Rice. They were not really of my generation, I didn't have the chance to watch it all develop with full comprehension.

Tiger Woods is one of those athletes and he belongs to our generation. He is going to revolutionize the game of golf not only in how you play and what you expect from great golfers, but also socially.

I do believe--even though I hate those Nike commercials that harp on his race--that his ethnicity and youth will bring a new life to the sport.

Why do I believe this? Well, Tiger has a great game. He hits the ball a ton but also with the accuracy of an archer--sharply contrasted with the "long but wrong" stylings of John Daly. He putts well enough to claim that he never had a great putting week during his tournament wins.

He also has versatility and is always improving, for example adding punch-shots to his repertoire about a year ago.

Most important is the fact that Tiger is good in the clutch. I watched him come back from way behind in the match play finals of the U.S. Amateur Tournament two years ago--the second of his unprecedented three straight victories.

When Tiger dropped an 18-footer from the fringe on the second to last hole of the match to take the lead, I knew he was going to be with us for a while. The kid's got guts, which is more than I can say for a lot of golfers--errrrr Greg Norman???

And so, I just wanted to clue you in. Tiger Woods is more than just a good golfer. He is going to be one of those athletes that go down in history as fundamental to the game. So watch him win, watch him lose, watch him evolve, watch the game evolve, you probably won't have a chance to see it again during your lifetime. And try not to watch Nike ruin it all.

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