Golf: Vox Pop: As a new golf season tees off, will Tiger Woods fulfil all the great expectations?
Sunday 17 January 1999
HE IS now a better player than when he won the Masters. He rode on the crest of a wave for his first nine months as a pro. He's still one of the best players in the world although David Duval and Lee Westwood are both better at the moment in that they convert more chances into victories. If you think about what he's achieved at 23 and that he's going to be around a long time then, yes, he is going to be as good as we all thought, but he's not going to win every tournament by 12 shots.
IT surprised me a few years ago that Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, after playing a practice round with Tiger at Augusta, thought he would win more Masters than the pair of them put together (10). I've no doubt he'll win there several times, but he does seem to have technical flaws and a lot to learn. He needs more experience and less power. He goes very hard at the ball, hurls himself at it when he gets in the rough, whereas Jack and Arnie would knock it back on the fairway and rescue par.
WHEN he won the Masters we thought he'd go on to eclipse Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 major victories. But that seems unlikely because there's much more competition now. In 1997, he seemed exceptional, but 1998 was a year of consolidation - he only won once but he had more top-10 finishes than anyone else and was just pipped for the best stroke average by Duval. His putting isn't up to the standard of the rest of his game but if he has a decent putting week he should win.
Multiple major winner
IT'S always difficult to say how good someone is going to be because you don't know the make-up of the person inside, but I'm a big Tiger Woods fan. He's absolutely unbelievable - he has so much talent and is only 23. But the poor chap lives under such abnormal pressure. He doesn't live a normal life and that's the only thing I can see will hinder him. He doesn't get much privacy. My advice to him would be to do what I've done and buy a big farm so that he can get away from it all.
Leading tour professional
IN ALL honesty, you're asking the wrong person - you'd be better off asking the man upstairs. I'm afraid I can't tell you how good he's going to be. There's no question he has a lot of talent and potential but there really is no telling whether he'll fulfil that, especially as he still has a long way to go. A lot depends on how he responds to success and failure, and on how much he learns from his mistakes. Also, to a large extent you're at the mercy of how well other people play when you're playing well.
ASK ME in 20 years time, after all he could break his leg next year and never be as good again. However, he is an exceptional talent and he's still in the middle of a learning process, like a young baritone or Pavarotti. There's still work to be done, even though he is extraordinary. I don't think his arrival has made his contemporaries raise their games - people don't wake up in the morning and say, 'I think I'll shoot a 65 or score a century'. It doesn't work like that.
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