Jordan Spieth is a remarkable young man and phenomenal golfer. In light of his recent performance on golf’s grandest stages, The Masters and The Players, the 20 year old PGA Tour member is garnering comparisons to the greatest player of our generation, Tiger Woods.
Conversations on golf talk radio this week have centered on the question, “Is Jordan Spieth the next Tiger Woods?”. Many are claiming the desperate need for the game of golf to find a dominant superstar to fill the void that Woods has left as a result of his inconsistency and inability to stay healthy.
To follow in the footsteps of the greats, regardless of sport, is a difficult task. It’s taken years for the NBA to find a personality and talent in the form of Lebron James to replace Michael Jordan. As great as Kobe Bryant was, he still never fully filled the shoes of the greatest to play the game of basketball.
The comparison to Michael Jordan and the NBA’s struggle to replace his legendary status is appropriate when considering what we’re asking the “next” Tiger Woods to do and be. It’s one thing to seek out a dominant player on the golf course who can consistently be found atop weekend leaderboards. But it’s an entirely different task to find someone capable of capturing the attention of sports fans worldwide at the magnitude Tiger Woods did as he ascended on the golf scene.
We may never have another Tiger Woods and that’s going to be alright, regardless of how desperate the PGA Tour or industry of golf feels they are to find a replacement. That being said, we may find someone who is capable of consistent top 10 finishes, multiple major championship victories while dawning a perfect smile and endearing personality. But interestingly enough, Tiger Woods wasn’t exactly all those things himself.
To expect a player to achieve a win percentage as Tiger Woods had during his heyday is unrealistic. But is it good enough, will it be acceptable if the games best player in the post Tiger Woods era is able to consistently contend for titles? Unfortunately, society celebrates winners and champions not solid finishes on the weekend.
Tiger Woods reinvented a brand in Nike in the golf industry. Nike has forever been aligned with sports greatest athletes but until their relationship with Tiger Woods Nike struggled to penetrate the golf category with the same dominance they enjoyed in football, soccer and basketball. In our search to find the next Tiger, are we expecting this person to have the same influence on Wall Street as Woods did?
Tiger’s accomplishments made the front page of the paper, not just the Sports section. When Tiger won a tournament it ascended the newsworthiness of the story to the headline on SportsCenter. Even if the event wasn’t a major championship, it garnered major championship type media coverage when Tiger held the trophy. I just don’t see a victory by Spieth or McIlroy or Fowler at the HPT Byron Nelson receiving the same consideration.
Tiger introduced many of us to what the number 18 means. Jack Nicklaus’ 18 major championships and Tiger’s pursuit to break that record became a topic of conversation early in Tiger’s career. Is it likely we’ll hear Spieth or McIlroy declare publicly their ambition to win 20 major titles and assume the spot as the game’s greatest ever? If we’re looking for the next Tiger, aren’t we seeking someone with the confidence and focus to set that lofty goal?
Many an NBA star fell short of filling the shoes of Michael Jordan. Great players and their accomplishments were diminished because they didn’t live up to the arbitrary expectation set by the media and fans hungry for the next MJ. Let’s not do the same thing with this generation of golf’s superstars. They are just too good for us not to enjoy them for who they are.