The No. 1 player in the world won his fifth event of the 2013 season, the 79th of his career, and he did it in such a fashion that the outcome was decided before the weekend with 36 holes still to play. If any other player in the world won a WGC event, where 48 of the top 50 were in attendance, by seven shots to add his fifth win of the season, golf fans and the golf press would fawn over the incredible year. We'd tab that golfer as the next big thing in American golf and the indisputable top player in the world.
But this is Tiger Woods, who owned Firestone for an eighth career victory to simply raise the line on so many stats and career marks that were already unmatchable. For Tiger, there can be no simple appreciation of a dominating win from golf fans and golf press -- you're either breathlessly losing your mind at the best thing ever, or bypassing the present achievement to ask the next question: Can he (or why hasn't he) do it on the weekend at a major? And that's just the spot you're in as the greatest, most popular and most overanalyzed golfer of a generation (and likely of any generation).
In a way, winning at Firestone for Tiger is somehow not impressive to the critics. The South Course is just another layout where Woods is comfortable, like Doral, Bay Hill or Torrey Pines, courses he has already owned throughout his career. Four of Tiger's five wins this season are at those venues, where he has won a total of 28 times. Tiger's wins at all four of those places this season were locked up before he even teed it up in his final round, but his fifth win at The Players, where he didn't have the outright lead, wasn't in the final pairing, and won by two, was oddly more convincing than a seven-shot runaway. In contrast to those four courses where he keeps setting records, he had struggled at TPC Sawgrass, holding just one career win there and flaming out at the Ponte Vedra track in a variety of ugly ways in recent years.
If someone like Brandt Snedeker or Matt Kuchar, both multiple winners this season, had won at Firestone by seven shots for a fifth 2013 victory, it would be a highlight of the golf season. For Tiger, it prompts dissection such as this:
Credit to Tiger, but win was due to superb 2nd round on a course he loves. If he plays on Friday like he did the other 3 days, he loses by 2— Luke Kerr-Dineen (@LukeKerrDineen) August 4, 2013
And the crazy thing -- that's not some Skip Bayless carnival barking, it's just an observation from a measured and smart golf writer for a player who's observed and critiqued in every way imaginable.
Snedeker and Kuchar wouldn't have praise for a seven-shot win at a WGC event followed by "but what about that Sunday putting at Muirfield?" or "but he's won so many times at Firestone, not sure it means much for Oak Hill where he's struggled." For Tiger, we make up meaningless trends and stats like Tiger Woods has never won a major when winning at Torrey Pines but then losing at Pebble Beach and winning at Firestone by five shots or more. I don't even know if that's true or not, but because he has such a long list of accomplishments, that's the kind of minutiae, which mean nothing to his ability to win at Oak Hill this week, that we always delve into after every win.
Because Tiger has accomplished so much and has such an impressive career history, the blowout win at Firestone is viewed in the context of what it means, or doesn't mean, for this week's major at Oak Hill. But yeah, Tiger just won a WGC event, with a loaded field, by seven shots and he now has an unassailable hold on the No. 1 ranking in the world. All these wins, all these tournaments that aren't majors, matter and they add to the numbers that I ran down last night -- some of which will never, ever be seen again.
We all know Tiger measures success in majors, so in a way, he's often devaluing some of the unmatchable, historical records he has set. Even if he wins the major this week, we'll move on to questioning whether he can keep his health/swing/mind/personal life/whatever together in order to get four more and eclipse Jack Nicklaus. When you're this good and this popular, the overwhelming majority of analysis shifts to "legacy." Fairly or unfairly, and unfortunately for Tiger Woods, the standards set can obscure the week-to-week legendary excellence.