Is Tiger’s comeback the greatest of all time?

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/09/2018 (1595 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Steve Lyons:

Hello there, 

It’s been awhile since we had this little chat. First, I was on vacation. Then, you took a few weeks off. Summer is obviously over, so time to get back to work.

The Jets are in full swing and launch another season next Wednesday is St. Louis and the Bombers are stumbling along to what looks like will be another Grey Cup-less season. Let’s chat more about both of those teams in a sec; but first I’m going to throw out a big fat ‘Told ya So.’ Insert tongue-sticking-out GIF of some sort here.

Perhaps you noticed who won the PGA’s Tour Championship on the weekend? Some fellow named Tiger. You know, the guy you said would never be relevant in the game again. Or did you say, he would never win again?

For anyone who missed it, Tiger Woods owned a field of the Tour’s best talent last weekend at East Lake and looked every bit as good as he did in his prime. It was Tiger’s first win in five years and his 80th career victory, leaving him two behind Sam Snead’s record of 82.

I don’t get overly excited about a lot in sports these days being the grisly veteran that I am (haha), but watching Tiger stroll up the 18th fairway with a throng of fans and then seeing the relief on his face as he sank the final putt and raised his arms in victory, have me goose bumps. I love a good comeback story; a tale of redemption — and I’m hard-pressed to think of another greater comeback than the one we’ve seen from Tiger this season.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwMWY6dXrCc

Paul Wiecek: 

Goose bumps yet. Did you clutch your pearls too?

Of course you loved the Tiger comeback — you’re old and white and male and the last demographic group for which golf is still relevant. Old white American males haven’t been this excited since Trump won.

The hyperbole since Tiger didn’t win a major last weekend has been nauseating. I’ve seen references all over the place to this cementing Tiger’s reputation as “the greatest athlete ever.” Not Alex Honnold, who climbed El Capitan in Yosemite last year without ropes or a net. Not Michael Phelps and his 23 Olympic gold medals. Not Pele, not Gretzky, not Mays, not Federer, not Bannister, not Serena… the list of athletes I’d choose ahead of a guy whose athletic achievement consists of walking in a park and hitting a ball with a metal stick is literally endless.

Andrew Harris is a better athlete than Tiger — by a wide measure.

Now, am I surprised Tiger finally won another tournament — albeit one that nobody much cared about until last weekend? Of course I’m surprised. But not only is this not the greatest comeback in the history of sport, it’s not even the greatest comeback in the history of golf. That mantle of course still belongs to Jack Nicklaus, who at the age of 46 — four years older than Tiger — won the Masters, a tournament people actually heard about before last weekend.

It’s not even close.

 

Steve: 

I think you’re a bit myopic in your assessment of golf’s audience — there were a whack of young rowdies following Tiger down that fairway. And I know several women who were glued to the TV on Sunday afternoon and wanting to talk about it Monday morning. And it was the, um, Tour Championship at East Lake — lots of folks had heard about it prior to this weekend. Jack Nicklaus was never an athlete — he was a golfer. Tiger is a genuine athlete; have you seen him. I’ll get Jeff Hamilton to ask Andrew Harris if he thinks he’s a better athlete than Tiger the next time the two of them do The Handoff podcast. You reading this Jeff? Let’s get another one of those up soon eh. This is good — I can rant with you and do my job at the same time. Multi-tasking man.

My two previous all-time athlete comebacks btw are Andre Agassi and Muhammed Ali.

Speaking of Harris, sounds like he’s good to go for Saturday’s game vs the Eskimos — good thing, the Blue and Gold have very little margin for error for the rest of the season and the loss of Harris would have been crippling to this team. Back in the basement of the West division, the Bombers need some sort of miracle Saturday to beat Mike Reilly and the green and gold. Reilly has killed the Bombers over and over and over again.

 

Paul: 

The average age of a PGA television viewer is 64. Golf has the oldest audience in televised sport by a mile. That’s not myopia or even my opinion — it’s just a fact. And none of that changes just because you saw some bro running behind Tiger on TV or heard from some friends over the weekend. The plural of anecdote is not data.

The sad irony of Mike Reilly’s ownership of all things Bombers is that he should have been a Bomber. You will recall that in the winter of 2013, the Bombers were desperately searching for a starting quarterback and former Bombers GM Joe Mack had decided on Reilly, who was with B.C. at the time and due to become a free agent.

But while Mack was sitting on his ass and doing nothing about it and waiting for free agency to open, Edmonton GM Ed Hervey swooped in and traded a measly second round draft pick to B.C. for Reilly and then promptly signed him long term.

The Bombers and their fans have been living with Mack’s incompetence ever since. The Bombers, by the way, went on that year to use their second round draft pick to select a long forgotten DB out of Concordia named Kristopher Robertson. Safe to say the Bombers would have been better off with Reilly.

Thanks, Joe Mack.

I will say a couple things about this weekend’s big game in Edmonton:

First, while the Bombers have lost four out of their last five games and are a game under .500, they are still very much alive. A win in Edmonton this weekend would give them a share of third place in the West, which is just nutty. It’s been a very strange season in the CFL.

And second, Edmonton hasn’t impressed me much. While Reilly is second to none, that team has lost games this season to every lousy team in the East except Montreal, including twice to Hamilton. And one of those Ticat losses came at Commonwealth Stadium.

All of which is to say history be damned: This is not only a monstrous game for the Bombers, it’s also a very winnable game for the Bombers.

Steve Lyons: 

Man, I thought you went out for lunch or something — guess you spent 45 minutes looking for that data?

Sports audiences in general are aging except perhaps, so to single out golf is myopic. The biggest increase in the audience’s age since 2000 is the NHL — from 33 to 49.

From 2006 to 2016, golf’s audience aged by five years — from 59 to 64; but the NHL’s audience aged by seven years — from 42 to 49.

It seems only college football, the NBA and soccer are kinda holding steady.

Golf has always been an older, more mature, audience — nothing has particularly changed.

I think the Joe Mack excuse is running out now — Kyle Walters and Mike O’Shea are into Year 5 now and things don’t look like they’re heading in the right direction.

I’ve defended O’Shea in the past, feeling he was improving in his job as each year passed. But, this team has not looked well-coached this season on offense; on defense; on special teams. I know you’re a big believer that Walters has given the coach all the tools to work with, but I have my lingering doubts about his ability to bring in the right import talent.

I think this team lacks import playmakers — no return game; no big play receiver; and no ball-hawking DBs anymore.

Yeah, the Canadian talent has been immeasurably upgraded over the last four seasons, but you no longer win in this league on the strength of your non-import players. Those days ended when the ratio rules were changed. This team needs an upgrade in its ability to find import talent — and I don’t mean signing other teams castoffs (Adarius Bowman) in February.

Paul Wiecek: 

I think you still live and die in this league on your non-import talent and what Walters has done in that respect over the last four seasons is second to none.

Signing running back Andrew Harris was a ratio-breaker. Drafting Taylor Loffler in the third round was genius. The Bombers offensive line is second to none in the league thanks to the Canadians on it — Matthias Goosen, Sukh Chungh and Patrick Neufeld.

Drew Wolitarsky is a keeper. And picking up Nic Demski was brilliant. That’s the best starting seven non-import talent in the CFL in my opinion and it gives the Bombers the ability to start 11 imports on defence.

And those imports on defence are good — really good. The Bombers front-seven is as talented as we’ve had in this town in a very long time. Throw in the Justin Medlock signing and Walters has given O’Shea everything he needs to succeed.

The problem with this team — with the defence, offence and special teams — isn’t with the players, it’s with the coach. Walters has given O’Shea a bonafide Grey Cup contender and he’s made a mess with it, along with a defensive coordinator he’s kept around far too long.

If you can’t win with these guys, you can’t win in the CFL. And so we’ll see. As bad as things have gotten for this team over the last six weeks, this is still salvageable. But it has to start now.

Steve: 

I’ve always felt the two of them are tied together in this — if one goes, the other should as well.

The Jets play their final pre-season game of the season tonight vs the Devils. I haven’t watched every minute of the pre-season — does anybody? — but what I have seen is the veteran players from last year look determined to continue there they left off last season. Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele look in mid-season form already. Watching a game the other night, it dawned on me how incredibly talented this team is — and I mean elite talent — compared to what we saw in the first several years.

Several teams in the West have improved — Blues and Sharks in particular — but the Jets stack up talent-wise with anyone in the conference. For that matter — in the league.

But as you said in this column, a lot of their fortune will rest on the shoulders of Connor Hellebuyck. His play last season gave the team a ton of confidence — knowing he would bail them out and more importantly not lose a game for them. We chatted earlier this week about whether he will regress a bit this season. He strikes me as a guy who will get even better going forward — and this team with a Vezina-winning goalie should be a serious Cup contender.

Bomber destroyer Mike Reilly. (Jason Franson / The Canadian Press files)

Paul: 

No arguments here with any of your Jets analysis, which is nice for a change. We’ve been arguing a lot today.

I really enjoyed Berkshire’s analysis of the Jets the other day I think he makes a persuasive case for why the Jets won’t be the Oilers of last season or the Senators of the season before — two teams that did a swan dive one year after a deep playoff run.

But yeah, I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times and I’m going to keep saying it until I’m wrong — as Hellebuyck goes, so go the Jets.

Steve: 

We’ll always argue over golf and Tiger. I once shot 74 at Niakwaka, you played left-handed, but we still had fun 🙂

The Jets have too much depth and too much speed to do a swoon like those teams. I also enjoyed Andrew’s analysis. For those of you just tuning in, we’ve hired Andrew Berkshire — managing editor of Sportlogiq and a regular contributor on Sportsnet — to write a column/analysis for us twice a week this season.

He makes use of the new fancy stats to come up with compelling storylines. I’ve been a reader of his for awhile now and super jacked to have him join our team this season. More Jets right?

Just got an email from Sportsnet — Bob Cole will be returning to the airwaves for a 50th and final season. The 85-year-old play-by-play man is going to do 10 games at the start of the season. I have never been a Cole fan — yells to much for my liking — but I guess it’s a fitting way to end an illustrious career.

It’s not just Cole by the way — I think all hockey play-by-play guys yell too much. And also tell me what my eyes can already way more than necessary. I like baseball commentators — they don’t tell me the guy pitched the pitch or hit the ball.

Paul: 

Not only do I golf left-handed, I’m a right-handed person. I went to a pro for a lesson once — he said there was quite literally no way to fix my swing. I quit shortly thereafter. I’ve been a happier person ever since.

As a hockey broadcaster, I liked Bob Cole better as a curler. Most people have forgotten this — Cole skipped Newfoundland at the 1975 Brier. Perfect sport and perfect position for him — lots of yelling.

Bob had a great career that should have ended a decade ago. I admire the guy’s longevity but he’s been tarnishing his legacy for a long time. So many mistakes. I swear the guy’s watching a different game than me a lot of nights.

I will never understand these greats who hang on too long. The guy’s I admire are the guys who go out on top, leaving you wanting more.

Steve Lyons: 

There’s only ONE Vin Scully man.

On that note, I got some stuff I have to get done the rest of the afternoon — let’s chat again soon; unless you have yet another vacation planned.

Paul Wiecek: 

Vin Scully — another thing upon which we can agree on on a day we didn’t agree on much.

I don’t care what everyone else says — you’re all right in my books.

 

steve.lyons@freepress.mb.ca

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Connor Hellebuyck (John Locher / The Associated Press files)
Paul Wiecek

Paul Wiecek
Reporter (retired)

Paul Wiecek was born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End and delivered the Free Press -- 53 papers, Machray Avenue, between Main and Salter Streets -- long before he was first hired as a Free Press reporter in 1989.

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