Golf's great Tiger void filled by the many... and that's a good thing


It takes something quite remarkable for a sportsperson to be as noticeable in their absence as when they are centre stage.

But then Tiger Woods is quite remarkable. Or at least, he was.

Golf's dominant force for a decade, Woods redefined the game in so many ways - and that's a problem for all who have followed him.

Yes, there remains one golfing Goliath Woods has not surpassed for majors collected and, in all likelihood, Jack Nicklaus will forever hold that mantle.

It is Woods' legacy, however, that provides the lofty vantage point from which the new generation's achievements are scrutinised.

From up there, atop the assembled brilliance of 14 major wins, a Claret Jug or a green jacket in isolation can appear vanishingly small.

Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and many more besides - they have all at some point been thrust into a one-sided comparison with one of the greatest sporting talents the world has seen, or is ever likely to.

All four will vie for glory at The Open this week, but recent history will provide even more resistance than the stiff Irish Sea winds that can buffet the unforgiving Royal Birkdale course.

The last seven editions of the sport's four biggest tournaments have been claimed by first-time major winners and a long queue of hopefuls are still waiting, including the likes of Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama and Rickie Fowler.

Woods' enduring absence has created a void so vast that no one man could possibly aspire to fill it. It has needed an army of players, all outstandingly talented in their own right, to even attempt it.

The Spieth/McIlroy/Day/Johnson quartet have between them won eight majors, leaving their combined haul six short of Woods' individual tally. 

Asked at Birkdale if he or any of his contemporaries could hope to match Woods' exploits, a wry smile played across Spieth's lips as he replied: "I wouldn't get your hopes up."

This from a man who, in 2015, had a Tiger-esque year in which he headed to The Open with back-to-back majors secured. At St Andrews he came up one shot shy of the leading trio, then finished runner-up at the US PGA a month later.

"Having experienced a [single] year like he [Woods] continued to do for years, it just takes a lot out of you," added Spieth, whose winless run in the 10 majors since then highlights the point.

"It's very tough to do. And you have to have a lot of things go right, right at the right times.

"I'm basically saying Tiger's entire career was lucky."

He was joking, of course, and said as much, but if Woods did enjoy more than his fair share of good fortune between his first major in 1997 to his last in 2008, he is feeling the reverse effect now.

With one true great laid low, sitting outside the world's top 1000, the rest appear unable to truly fill his shoes. But allow these pretenders to the throne to leave their own footprints - and let's side-step the graceless comparing of sizes.